Thursday, June 29, 2017 - Posted by Michael McCulloch
A phone book publisher, Local Blue Pages, has been fined $40,000 by the Magistrates' Court for coercive debt collection.
The phone book, which is primarily delivered in the Melbourne metropolitan area, contains advertisements from small businesses however following an investigation by Consumer Affairs Victoria it was found that Local Blue Pages had harassed 4 advertisers between 2014 and 2016 using illegal debt collection tactics.
These tactics included:
- Establishing a fake debt collection agency;
- Misrepresenting and overstating the consequences of non-payment;
- Serving documents pertaining to be issued by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ("VCAT") which were never lodged with the tribunal;
- Creating an impression that legal action had commenced; and
- Continually making demands for payment where the business owner was not liable
Owner of Local Blue Pages, Les Papaioannou, was also personally fined $5,000 and said in a statement, "They have made me a scapegoat. All I was doing was chasing the debt that people owed me. In my opinion we made some mistakes, but I wasn't trying to rip anyone off I was just trying to chase my accounts".
Director on Consumer Affairs Victoria, Simon Cohen, said, "The threats made by Local Blue Pages undoubtedly caused a great deal of stress to victims."
Mr Papaioannou said in a later statement that Local Blue Pages has since changed its debt recovery proceedings as a result of the Court case.