Code on debt collection can boost financial hub status

It is past time for Singapore, as an international financial and banking hub, to have its own code of best practices on debt collection ("Case calls for laws to govern debt collection"; Sunday).

For instance, in Melbourne, Australia, where I worked and lived for more than five years, face-to-face contact between debtors and debt collectors is restricted to the hours of 9am to 9pm, and telephone calls are restricted to between 7.30am and 9pm.

No contact is recommended on public holidays, and there is an outright ban on tactics that involve threats or intimidation.

To give these guidelines bite, they are governed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, within the over-arching legal framework of the National Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Creditors and their collection agencies need to recognise that robust and effective debt collection strategies have to be crafted around common sense, tact and mindfulness, besides being based on hard numbers.

On the other side of the equation, this code of best practices also needs to address the responsibilities of debtors, such as initiating contact with their financial institution and other creditors to work out and agree on affordable payment plans that benefit all parties concerned, and understanding their creditors' legal and other rights against them.

The implementation of such a robust debt collection framework could help resolve the many issues that the industry is facing, and further augment Singapore's status as a global financial and banking hub.

Woon Wee Min

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'Code on debt collection can boost financial hub status'. Print Edition | Subscribe