The Credit Services Association (CSA) - the official body representing the United Kingdom debt collection industry - launched a Manifesto Thursday calling for a radical review of legislation and regulation that concentrates too much on the rights of the consumer, and not enough on their duties to fulfill their financial obligations.
It is also challenging the government to tackle the issue of "information sharing" - the biggest problem impacting the recovery of debt being the lack of rightful access to information about debtors who have wilfully absconded or disappeared so as to evade their debt obligations.
Specifically it believes there should be a legal requirement for individuals to register an address with their creditors, and inform creditors if they move. This would, practically overnight, protect the innocent from the incidences of "mistraces" that have been allowed to overshadow the real issue of certain debtors committing deliberate fraud or evasion.
The Debt Manifesto, the first of its kind, is being launched by the CSA at its annual conference at Carden Park. Officially its aims are "to enlighten, raise awareness, express concern and suggest proposals to alleviate problems caused by excessive debt." Perhaps unofficially it is a timely reminder to government that they need to take some brave steps if they are serious about tackling the ever-mounting debt crisis, which is now seeing consumer debt rising by £1 million every four minutes.
As Godfrey Lancashire, President of the CSA explains: "Our Manifesto sets out to demonstrate that there is a clear, demonstrable relationship between a regulatory culture that enables consumers to avoid their debts, and the growing problem of over-indebtedness. Our members know better than anyone else the extent of the problem, and how current legislation isnıt working.
"We need to stop seeing all debtors as victims, and the collection agencies as the bad guys, when clearly neither should be described as such. Yes there are of course debtors who find themselves unable to cope and they need to be helped, but the 'one-size-fits-all' approach to regulation does not work. It does not allow different strategies to be delivered to address the very different problems of those who 'can't pay' their debts as distinct from those who 'won't pay'."
Action points within the document are grouped under three principal headings, which form the tenets of the Manifesto: to establish a level playing field between Debtors and Creditors; to improve access to information about people and their whereabouts; to work more closely with Legislators and Regulators. The Manifesto also aims to reinforce the positive role of the debt service industry in providing a safety net for the recovery of large sums of money that would otherwise be lost to the economy.
The CSA, and the existence of the new Manifesto, will mean that it is well placed to advise on these matters and assist Legislators and Regulators with the complex task of alleviating over indebtedness.
Support for the Manifesto has already been received from other major players within the credit community, notably the Institute of Credit Management (ICM). Philip King, Director General of the ICM commented, "I applaud the manifesto and its aims. Members of the ICM know all too well the impact of deliberate absconders and welcome this initiative. As the people often instructing the CSA's member organizations, they share a common interest.
A full copy of the Manifesto can be downloaded by logging on to www.csa-uk.com.