What is Debt? Why Flat Rate Debt Collection is Your Best Option
Debt is when something, usually money, is owed by one party, the borrower or debtor, to a second party, the lender or creditor. Debt is a deferred payment, or series of payments, that is owed in the future, which is what differentiates it from an immediate purchase
Debt collection is the process of pursuing payments of debts owed by individuals or businesses. An organization that specializes in debt collection is known as a collection agency or debt collector. Most collection agencies operate as agents of creditors and collect debts for a fee or percentage of the total amount owed.
Debt collection has been around as long as there has been debt and is older than the history of money itself, as it existed within earlier systems based on bartering. (See: Barter) Debt collection goes back to the ancient civilisations, starting in Sumer in 3000 BC. In these civilisations if a debt was owed that could not be paid back, the debtor and the debtor's spouse, children or servants were forced into "debt slavery", until the creditor recouped losses via their physical labour. Under Babylonian Law, strict guidelines governed the repayment of debts, including several basic debtor protections.
In some societies debts would be carried over into subsequent generations and debt slavery would continue. However some early societies provided for periodic debt forgiveness such as a jubilees or would set a time limit on a debt.
Both the Bible and Quran issue stern restrictions regarding how much interest to charge on a loan. The Abrahamic religions discouraged lending and prohibited creditors from collecting interest on debts owed. By the Middle Ages, laws came into being to deal specifically with debtors. If creditors were unable to collect a debt they could take the debtor to court and obtain a judgment against the debtor. This resulted in either the bailiff of the court going to the house of debtor and collecting goods in lieu of the debt, or the debtor being remitted to debtor’s prison until the debtor's family could pay off the debt or until the creditor forgave it.
In occupied territories of the Roman Empire, tax collectors were frequently associated with extortion, greed, and abuse of power.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s in the United States, large financial institutions relied heavily upon foreclosure to collect outstanding mortgage debts, which gained an overwhelmingly negative public perception.
The person who owes the bill or debt is the debtor. Debtors may fail to pay (default) for various reasons: because of a lack of financial planning or overcommitment on their part; due to an unforeseen eventuality such as the loss of a job or health problems; dispute or disagreement over the debt or what is being billed for; or dishonesty on the part of either the creditor or the debtor. The debtor may be either a person or an entity such as a company. Collection of debts from individual people is subject to much more restrictive rules than enforcement against a business.\
Types of debt collector
There are many types of collection agencies. First-party agencies are often subsidiaries of the original company the debt is owed to. Third-party agencies are separate companies contracted by a company to collect debts on their behalf for a fee. Debt buyers purchase the debt at a percentage of its value, then attempt to collect it. Each country has its own rules and regulations regarding them.
Some collection agencies are departments or subsidiaries of the company that owns the original debt. First-party agencies typically get involved earlier in the debt collection process and have a greater incentive to try to maintain a constructive customer relationship. Because they are a part of the original creditor, first-party agencies may not be subject to legislation that governs third-party collection agencies.
These agencies are called "first-party" because they are part of the first party to the contract (i.e. the creditor). The second party is the consumer (or debtor). Typically, first-party agencies try to collect debts for several months before passing it to a third-party agency or selling the debt and writing off most of its value.
A collection agency is a third-party agency, called such because such agencies were not a party to the original contract. The creditor assigns accounts directly to such an agency on a contingency-fee basis, which usually initially costs nothing to the creditor or merchant, except for the cost of communications. This however is dependent on the individual service level agreement (SLA) that exists between the creditor and the collection agency. The agency takes a percentage of debts successfully collected; sometimes known in the industry as the "Pot Fee" or potential fee upon successful collection. This does not necessarily have to be upon collection of the full balance; very often this fee must be paid by the creditor if they cancel collection efforts before the debt is collected. The collection agency makes money only if money is collected from the debtor (often known as a "No Collection - No Fee" basis). Depending on the type of debt, the age of the account and how many attempts have already been made to collect on it, the fee could range from 10% to 50% (though more typically the fee is 25% to 40%).
Some debt purchasers who purchase sizable portfolios use a Master Servicer to assist in managing their portfolios (often ranging in thousands of files) across multiple collection agencies. Given the time-sensitive nature of these assets, many in the Accounts Receivable Management (ARM) industry believe there is a competitive advantage in utilizing this technique as it gives the debt purchaser more control and flexibility to maximize collections. Master Servicing fees may range from 4% to 6% of gross collections in addition to collection agency fees.
Some agencies offer a flat fee "pre-collection" or "soft collection" service. The service sends a series of increasingly urgent letters, usually ten days apart, instructing debtors to pay the amount owed directly to the creditor or risk a collection action and negative credit report. Depending on the terms of the SLA, these accounts may revert to "hard collection" status at the agency's regular rates if the debtor does not respond.
In many countries there is legislation to limit harassment and practices deemed unfair, for example limiting the hours during which the agency may telephone the debtor, prohibiting communication of the debt to a third party, prohibiting false, deceptive or misleading representations, and prohibiting threats, as distinct from notice of planned and not illegal steps.