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Released every month our debt collection blog contains news, stories and tips to keep you informed.

Veterinary Surgeon Says Unpaid Debts is Stealing

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 - Posted by Michael McCulloch

A veterinary surgeon based in Western Australia has recently come out in the Sydney Morning Herald saying that unpaid invoices for veterinary care is ".... essentially stealing from someone".

Dr Belinda Beynon said that in January 2018 that a distressed woman approached the surgery with 2 dogs that had been bitten by snakes. Having spent 13 years working in an emergency veterinary clinic, Dr Beynon, knew that the procedure would cost the owner a minimum of $3,000. The owner claimed to be unable to pay the full balance immediately and would pay $1,500 upfront and pay the balance within the week.

With both dogs surviving treatment the surgery attempted to contact the owner by phone and mail before referring the debt to a debt collection agency who also failed in their attempts to recover the debt. Dr Beynon wrote-off the debt and put it down to a bad experience.

Recently Dr Beynon said that she had new clients come in with a dog that required treatment however was undecided if she should commence treatment or not. Dr Beynon said that while her professional judgement said to treat the animal her business owner experience told her that they couldn't afford to.

While Dr Beynon was able to eventually authorise the treatment through financial assistance she said in a statement, "What I’ve tried to explain to people in the past ... is that what a vet charges is not always related to the quality of the work that they do. I guess I would say ... if you go into a veterinary practice and you request veterinary care, and you promise to pay something and then you don’t do it, you’re not taking away someone’s holiday to Fiji or a fancy piece of jewellery. That might mean they can’t pay their kids school fees that week. They might not be able to pay the drug bill that week. They’re not getting away with something – they’re essentially stealing from someone. Perhaps if more people gave more thought to the families behind the building and the impact it has, then perhaps they might question their own motives a bit more."


China Trials Deadbeat Map To Monitor Bad Debts

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 - Posted by Michael McCulloch

Authorities in China are trialling a new app which will enable users to check on their debt status according to ABC News.

The app, which is an add-on to Chinese social media platform, WeChat, has been rolled out in the Hebei province earlier this year. Nicknamed the "Deadbeat Map" the programs allows users to pinpoint the location of those who have failed to pay their debts within a 500 metre radius. Tapping on a person marked on the map reveals personal information about the individual including their name and the reason why they have been placed on the financial blacklist. Other information such as home addresses and identity card numbers are also partially shown.

The launch of the app has not been without criticism with many raising privacy concerns over the app. A representative of the Hebei Higher People's Court said in a statement, "The development and application of the map can further realise the connection and sharing of information on debtors and create a social honesty framework that limits those who lose their credibility in many ways." In response Delia Lin, a senior lecturer in Chinese studies at the University of Melbourne, said, "This is dangerous — it encourages people to take the law into their own hands. The people who cannot pay their debt because they are too poor, then who will be subject to this kind surveillance and this kind of public shaming. Basically, society becomes a virtual prison — instead of going to jail, those people's personal lives, and even their children's personal lives, are being affected."

China has been developing a social credit score system since 2011 with the aim of separating the "trustworthy" from the "disobedient" with behavour ratings then used to determine access to services ranging from transport to loans. Since its launch more than 18 million people have been banned from flying and 5.5 million prevented from buying rail tickets as a result of their debts.


School Lunches Referred to Debt Collectors

Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - Posted by Michael McCulloch

A school district has allegedly hired a debt collection agency to recover lunch debts owed by parents.

In an article in Turnto10, it is being claimed that the Cranston Public Schools District located in Rhode Island, New England, are owed US$45,859 for unpaid lunches. It is being reported that parents have been notified that from January 2019 that debts owed on school lunches would be referred to a debt collection agency where the amount owed exceeded US$20.

School Chief Operating Officer, Raymond Votto, said in a statement to Turnto10, "In an effort to reduce our unpaid balance, the District has retained the services of a collection agency. The company is Transworld Systems and they will begin their collection efforts effective January 2, 2019". Mr Votto went on to claim that in the last 2 financial years the school district had lost US$9,508 from lunch debt. The move has been criticised by some and the impact this may have on struggling families where 43% of students are eligble for free or reduced lunches.

The Cranston Public Schools District isn't the 1st of its kind to refer these types of debts to debt collectors. In 2011 in Davidson County, North Carolina, policy dictated that lunch debts above US$37.50 be sent to collections while in 2012 an Ohio District sent US$900,000 in lunch debt to be recovered.

Lunches in the Cranston Public Schools District average US$2.50 per day for elementary school students and US$3.50 per day for middle and high school students.


West Gladstone Teen Fined Over Debt Collection Gone Bad

Thursday, September 27, 2018 - Posted by Michael McCulloch

A 19 year old teenager in West Gladstone QLD has recently discovered that causing damage to someone's property is not the correct way to recover a debt.

The teenager was attempting to recover an alleged $700 debt when he attended the address which saw him kicking a metal screen on the front door of the property before smashing a glass window and smashing a TV he found at the side of the house.

Acting Magistrate, Jason Schubert, fined the teenager a total of $1,100 and ordered him to pay $335 in compensation.

It's not the first time we have seen some Unusual Debt Collection Techniques such as those we outlined in our September 2016 issue of Debt Collection News.

Source: The Observer - September 2018


Federal Court Finds Against Debt Collection Agency

Thursday, August 30, 2018 - Posted by Michael McCulloch

A debt collection agency who act for Telstra has lost their case in the Federal Court following proceedings being commenced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

The proceedings, which commenced in June 2016, highlighted the pressure some agencies apply to collect payment including engaging in misleading, deceptive and unconscionable conduct in it's dealings with 2 particular customers.

The first customer, CT*, who was living in a care facility on a disability support pension, after having suffered 3 strokes, received in excess of 60 demands for payment for a debt of $5,770. The Court found that the agency knew of CT's condition, which left him with the inability to care for himself or readily speak, however called the care facility approximately 40 times and sent approximately 20 demand letters seeking payment. Several times CT was threatended with legal action despite the agency not having any plans to follow through with the threat.

In the other matter a single Victorian mother of three, who worked part time and received a Centrelink payment, was demanded to pay $3,150. It was alleged that the woman was told that legal proceedings would be commenced against her and that a payment default would be recorded. The woman in question promised a payment of 50% of the debt in an attempt to avoid legal proceedings, despite this payment leaving her unable to pay rent and meet her other day-to-day expenses.

The Judgment, which you can read online, also criticises the capitalised use of words in demand letters and the use of “the words 'could' and 'may' would reasonably be read in the light of the prominent heading to the pro forma letter, the terms of which strongly suggest that ACM intended shortly to commence legal proceedings .....".

In a statement to the media the ACCC said that they will be seeking Orders preventing agencies engaging in misleading, deceptive and unconscionable conduct and will be seeking for large fines to be imposed.

Source: itnews - July 2018

* Name noted as per the original Judgment


Victoria Plans Crackdown on Debt Collection Industry

Monday, July 30, 2018 - Posted by Michael McCulloch

The Labor party in Victoria has planned a crackdown on debt collection in Victoria if re-elected at the November State election.

news.com.au and radio 3AW 693 are reporting that organised crime groups will be the focus of a planned State Government crackdown on the debt collection industry with Police Minister, Lisa Neville, announcing earlier this month an overhaul of the regulations. In a statement to the media she said, "We'll clean up this industry, like we did with scrap metal - to tackle organised crime and crack down on rogue operators."

The Labor Government, if re-elected, would like to establish a dedicated commission and harsher penalties for those involved in unlicensed debt debt collection in Victoria and would work more closely with the police, Consumer Affairs Victoria and industry leaders to clean-up the industry.

Chief Executive of the Australian Collectors and Debt Buyers, Alan Harriers, said in response, "If they are that [sic] then it's up to Fair Trading to stop them as being illegal persons doing debt collection. I am unaware of any prosecutions against people in this regard. If they were actual proper debt buyers, they would hold an Australian credit licence that is issued by ASIC. It's a very highly regulated industry."

In Victoria there is not a legal requirement in which to hold a debt collection licence.


30 Year Old Man Evicted by Court Order

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Michael McCulloch

A 30 year old son has been ordered by a Court in New York to move out of his parents' home.

Christina and Mark Rotondo started Court proceedings earlier this month following their sons refusal to move out after 3 months of giving him notice to vacate. The drama started in February of this year when Michael Rotondo was given 14 days to move and indicated that they would take whatever action necessary to enforce their decision.  Christina and Mark Rotondo then sought legal advice and served another notice giving Michael 30 days to move out and offered him some advice and US$1,100 to find a new place to live.

Following further requests in March 2018 Michael still refused to leave and ejectment proceedings were commenced. Michael asked the Court to dismiss the request stating he ,"has never been expected to contribute to household expenses, or assisted with chores and the maintenance of the premises, and claims that this is simply a component of his living agreement."

Supreme Court Judge, Donal Greenwood, disagreed and granted the eviction. Michael has since indicated that he will be appealing the ruling and said in a statement to the media, "It seems to me like I should be provided with, you know, 30 days or so, because generally you get 30 days after you're found, you know, to have to vacate the premises. So I'm expecting something like that. But realistically, if that's not the case, I don't know."

Ironically the Court has ruled that Michael must leave the premises within 3 months which would be six months from the date of the first notice given to him in February.

Source: CNN World News - May 2018


Debtors Named and Shamed on Public Website

Friday, April 27, 2018 - Posted by Michael McCulloch

A public State Government website has named and shamed 4,000 Tasmanians who have outstanding parking, Court fines and infringement notices.

Section 65 (1) of the Monetary Penalties Enforcement Act 2005 allows the State of Tasmania to publish the name, address and details of persons who have an unpaid debt where payment has not been received in full, entered into an approved repayment arrangement or satisifed the debt by other means. The site contains a link to download an Excel spreadsheet which is updated weekly.

With $61 million owing to the State of Tasmania drastic steps are being taken to obtain payment. The highest unpaid debt is $1.2 million owed by David Wei Meng Lee, convicted in 2016 of abalone trafficking. More than 7,225 Australian are currently listed with other enforcement action being taken to recover funds such as suspension of drivers' licences, suspension of car registration, Redirection of Money Owed Orders and Seizure and Sale of Assets.

The Monetary Penalties Enforcement Service ("MPES"), who is responsible for debt recovery for the Courts, Police, Local Government and Public Sector, issued 27,387 sanctions in the last year, an incease of 5,252 more than the last year.

Source: Illawarra Mercury - April 2018


Council to Auction Properties With Overdue Rates

Thursday, March 29, 2018 - Posted by Michael McCulloch

Back in our February 2017 edition of Debt Collection News we reported councils considering home repossessions to recover unpaid rates in the Bowen Basin Local Government area.

This month it is being reported that Bundaberg Regional Council has listed several properties for auction for rate arrears. A council spokeperson said that in November 2017 council authorised a total of 43 properties to be sold at auction representing outstanding rates of just under $475,000. Of the 43 properties only 7 remain however according to Council many ratepayers will settle their debt prior to the hammer falling.

In a statement a council spokesperson said, "Ratepayers who find themselves facing the auctioning of their property have ignored numerous phone calls, letters and approaches from council's debt management team and authorised recovery agency. It is quite normal for the outstanding rates on a majority of properties to be settled prior to auction".

The auction is scheduled for Thursday, 12 April 2018.

Source: NewsMail - March 2018


$10 Million Gym Fee Membership Error

Thursday, March 29, 2018 - Posted by Michael McCulloch

A Perth resident, Michael Reed, received received a letter of demand from a debt collection agency for a gym membership from his local Anytime Fitness.

While this isn't entirely unusual with the make-up of these Agreements when memberships are cancelled, Mr Reed was demanded to pay $10,296,696.40. This is the equivalent to a membership of at least 20,000 years. In a statement to the media Mr Reed said, "I had a heart attack when I opened it. The guys at work thought it was great. They suggested I set up a GoFundMe page. I guess I know the price for perfect abs is out of my reach now."

Once the issue was identified Mr Reed said that Anytime Fitness were very helpful and the collection agency confirmed that there was an administrative error, apologised and paid his gym membership for a year as compensation.

Source: Perth Now - March 2018



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