Foul play by debt collectors

The Consumer Ombudsman has turned his attention to debt collection companies, to which banks, shops and telecommunications firms resort in order to receive the cash owed to them. The independent authority has realized these debt collectors are actually not law firms but commercial companies, therefore the collection of unpaid debt by them amounts to usurping the legal profession, as this duty exclusively concerns lawyers and legal officers. Ombudsman Ioannis Adamopoulos said yesterday that the professional relationship between the debt collection agencies and suppliers is entirely alien to the legitimate factoring contracts. Worse, the collection methods applied constitute a violation of the principles of decency and respect of the debtors’ rights. In certain instances, citizens have complained they have even received threats from employees of debt collection companies, such as the issuing of unfavorable reports through the Tiresias bank credit information system. Usually employees of debt collection companies, which receive private information on debtors without being legally entitled to it, pretend they are the employees of banks or law firms. The aim of this deceitful practice is to attribute a certain prestige to their collection effort and lend a legitimate cause to their activity. Other times, debt collection companies apply pressure for the payment of debts even in instances of illegal or simply incorrect and abusive clauses (e.g. they seek amounts of money as debts from general transaction terms deemed abusive by courts, or even debts already paid off by consumers). The investigation into the practices of a total of 26 debt collection firms began after complaints by consumers about the way the debts were collected. The Ombudsman’s report has been forwarded to the president of the Athens Bar Association and the president of the Federation of Legal Officers.