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Court rules Debtors can claim Compensation from Collection Agencies

“Repeated calls from collection agencies to debtors infringe personality and debtors are entitled to compensation.” This is the final decision of a court in Athens after an attorney filed a lawsuit against two collection agencies. The court ruling opens the way for compensation to be claimed for “personality insult” when a debtor receives a ‘rain’ of phone calls by collection agencies on a daily basis.

The court ruled that such repeated phone calls go beyond the imposed measures and therefore they insult the debtor’s personality. for this reason debtors can claim compensation.

The court granted the plaintiff a compensation of 3,000 euros to be paid by each of the two collection agencies.

The specific case: the credit card of a lawyer was stolen together with other documents.The lawyer immediately reporters the theft to the police and cancelled his credit card issued by a big Greek bank.

Four months after the theft, he received a phone call by a collection agency telling him that he had made cash withdrawals totaling €1,100 and had to pay the amount to the bank.

The lawyer started procedures with the bank to find out who was responsible and how this could happen as the card was cancelled the same day.

But he kept receiving phone calls not only by one but by two collection agencies that were demanding the money.

The phone calls were several times per day to his private and business phone numbers as well as to his …father.

Among others, the callers were “persistent and were pressing” and even asked personal data like “ID and tax identification number.” Employees of the second agency had gone so far to contact his father and ask him “to persuade his son to meet his obligations.” All this was happening in front of the employees and co-workers in his company.

The lawyer’s nightmare with the collection agencies lasted about three months.

The court confirmed that the lawyer was exposed to “abusive, illegal and insulting behavior on the part of the employees of the collection agencies.”

Now, each of them has to pay the lawyer a compensation of 3,000 euros.

The court decision (1566/2017)  is a relief for thousands of debtors who experience the pressure of collecting agencies, pressure in form of a rain of phone calls at any time of the day, in private and business places while relatives are not excluded either.

However, it is not only the banks that pass debtors’ data over to collection agencies. Recently, an outrage broke out when the CEO of Greek Public Power Company said admitted that the PPC would hire collection agencies to retrieve money. Following the outrage, the CEO claimed collection agencies would have the role of  adviser. In media reports thought several PPC-subscribers said they had been receiving phone calls by collection agencies for debts to Greece’s public electricity company.

Collection agencies (debt collectors) started to flourish in Greece after 2010 when the first bailout was imposed. The conservative New Democracy government under Costas Karamanlis had passed the law for the operation of so-called “companies for debt information” in May 2009.

These companies do not bother to make phone calls only to bank debtors and for debts from a certain amount onwards.

Several years ago, a friend received a phone call by a collection company for a 60-euro debt to the public gas company. Recently, another friend was bothered with such a phone call for one unpaid bill of 45 euro to the public telephone company.

No wonder collection agencies put immense pressure on debtors, after all they earn a a fee or percentage of the total amount owed.

This percentage is between 3% and 12%,  with the average to be 6%-8% and 12% for the so-called difficult cases.

Daily Ethnos revealed four days ago that collection agencies have new practices and these are to buy debts from banks, public organizations and private businesses.

“They offer to buy the debt at 30% of its value and then they will be assigned to collect the total debt,” a manager of a commercial company approached by collection agencies told the daily.

The agencies already deal with debts at banks, telephone companies, car companies, retail companies that sell products on installments, even private schools and lose weight companies.

Their ultimate target is to grab debts of the public sector where they press for higher commission in order to chase debtors and collect debts.

They target debts to the Public Power and the Public Water Companies as well as the tax authorities.

“the relevant law has passed through the Parliament, however the tender is still due because of the higher commission the agencies demand,” Ethnos notes.

According to their association there are 13 collection agencies operating in Greece, while the Bank of Greece says there are a few dozens.

These companies saw their revenues skyrocket in the last five years “even though they declare very small proft margin” writes Ethnos and reports about a collection agency apparently very known to Greek debtors that the company’s gross revenues skyrocketed to €8,000,000 in 2010 from €467,000 in 2009. The gross profit was just €726,000. “It is a good question how these companies with such revenues manage to have big losses or small net earning,” the daily stresses.

While the government tries to make legal arrangements to take collection agencies under control in order to “meet citizens complaints about intimidation and blackmail. However every time it “stumbles at the law that give the companies the right to deal with citizens-debtors obligations although the consumer has not signed a relevant agreement with these companies,” Ethnos underlines.

Another issue that puzzles debtors is that the collector agents claim to be lawyers. Many collection agencies operate under the window of a lawyer firm. According to media reports, collection agencies ‘rent’ the name of a  -mostly- young lawyer. Some 50 managers of collection agencies had to answer questions posed by prosecutors. Authorities often try to stop the illegal practices of debt collectors.

Recently a friend exposed such a bully, when he asked the caller to identify himself as a lawyer with his registration number at the Athens Bar Association. The phone call ended in mutual exchange of harsh insults.

Of course, collection agents are not lawyers but often unemployed people who desperately seek a job. They get hired with repeated one-month contracts and are also under immense pressure from the company to meet their daily target. And they are underpaid.

PS Unfortunately, Greeks have become prey to any unethical and immoral thug existing in this world.

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