ACM warns about network of aggressive debt-collection agencies
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has issued a warning against the aggressive practices of the following debt-collection agencies:
- Activa Finance / Activa Collectum
- AMK Company
- Be Clean
- Co Jansen
- Debt Pay
- Unic Parts
Reports to ACM have shown that these agencies exert pressure on consumers to pay invalid bills. ACM has established that the individuals behind these agencies constantly set up new companies, allowing them to continue their aggressive practices. That is why ACM chooses to warn consumers actively against all of these companies. Edwin van Houten, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, explains: ‘We want debt-collection agencies to stop this behavior. With this warning, we wish to prevent more consumers from being harmed as a result of these harmful practices.’
How these aggressive debt-collection agencies operate
All of these agencies operate in a similar manner. First, they approach consumers over the phone, for example, with an offer for a vacation house, a travel deal, or a discount on products. In most cases, there is no agreement at all, for example because consumers had said that they only wished to receive information about the special offer, without agreeing to the offer itself, or consumers had not given their written consent to the offer of the subscription, after the phone call. And in some cases, consumers had never even been approached at all. Still, the debt-collection agency contacts the consumer, sometimes months or years later, because they still have an outstanding bill. By that time, bills have often run up to hundreds of euros. Consumers are called repeatedly, and they feel heavily pressured to pay, while the debt-collection agency refuses to address the consumer’s assertion that the bill is invalid. Debt-collection agencies also threaten with powers they do not have, like sending a bailiff or seizure of property. According to ACM, these are illegal aggressive commercial practices.
The six debt-collection agencies that ACM warns against in this press release collect invalid claims for at least the following companies: All Great Dealz, Beste Korting, Beyond Beauty, BigMundo, Buy2fly, Center Wellness, Consumenten Collective, Daily Offer, Degroteprijzenpot, Euro Loterij, Euro Lotto, Euromillions, Happy Numbers, Kick Off Holland, OnlineLuck, Piccolo, Premium Card, Premium Kiosk, Pronea, Shop & Fly, Shoppendoejezo, Trip Abroad, Voordeelinkoop, and Voordelig winkelen.
Previously, ACM had also received reports about the following debt-collection agencies, which had been involved in debt collection for the abovementioned names: Akret, Aktar Incasso, Business Collect, Direct Solutions, Mediation Agency, Pay Care, Prevent Interland, Provision Support, and The Research.
Comprehensive approach to debt collection
ACM sees a network of individuals and companies aiming to harm consumers. They quickly set up companies, collect bills, and then disappear after a while. Subsequently, they call consumers again, using new names. Last year, ACM warned about similar practices by debt-collection agency PayCare.
Significant sums of money are involved, in many cases up to hundreds of euros per consumer. The agencies in this network presumably tried to collect approximately 6 million euros. In order to put an end to these practices, ACM closely collaborates with other organizations like the police, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) and the Dutch Consumers' Association. Given the international dimension of these practices, ACM is also collaborating with the Belgian and Turkish consumer authorities.
Tips for consumers:
- Do not pay the bill, even if the company is threatening with higher fees, sending a bailiff, or taking other measures;
- Check whether documents or recordings are valid, using the information on ConsuWijzer.nl: an agreement is only valid if you have agreed to the offer. Check on ConsuWijzer.nl in which cases an agreement is valid;
- Hang up the phone if the company continues to call. Ignore letters or emails. These will often stop coming eventually;
- If you doubt the validity of the bill and you have to transfer money to a foreign bank account, be extra careful;
- Report unjust claims to ConsuWijzer;
- File a police report if the debt collection agency is threatening you.