The Fair Debt Collection Act requires that debt collectors treat you fairly and prohibits certain methods of debt collection. Personal, family, and household debts are covered under the Act. This includes money owed for the purchase of an automobile, for medical care, or for credit cards and other charge accounts. – (see Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Consumer Facts)
Debt Collection Agencies are often used to collect past-due bills and outstanding debts. While this can sometimes yield positive results, it is relatively expensive (often 20%-30% or more of the monies collected!) and there are often quicker and more effective methods to making sure client bills are being paid within a reasonable time period.
First, communication is essential! When an invoice becomes only a couple of days old, it’s wise to place a personal and friendly phone call to the customer simply stating that you noticed his bill just went past the due date and you were just wondering when you could expect payment.
It is important, throughout the debt collection process, to obtain some committment from the customer – no matter how small, and then try to hold him to his committments. So, if the customer, for any reason is unable to pay-off the entire debt at once, there are two things to do:
- Request a partial payment right away. Try to get as much as possible, but if you demand an amount the client is unable to pay, you can expect to get nothing. So, ask the customer how much of the outstanding balance he is able to pay right now and work from there.
- Agree to a regular payment schedule. Again, you need to agree on an amount the client is able to pay, or they will not be able to live up to their committment. Settle on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly schedule to collect the balance of the bill. If you refer the debt to collection agencies, they will likely try to make similar payment arrangements with your customer, only you would then have to pay the agency a significant fee.
WHAT IF I STILL CAN’T COLLECT THE DEBT?
It’s always a good idea to start by giving the customer the benefit of the doubt – after all, things sometimes do get delayed, or even lost in the mail. However, if the customer either refuses to make acceptable arrangements, or clearly is not living up to the committments he makes in terms of alternate payment arrangements, the best way to collect the debt is to get it out of your hands (so you can focus back on other, more valuable tasks), and into the hands of a Debt Collection Attorney that has the ability to take legal action on your behalf, such as filing a lawsuit, or even garnish wages, if necessary.
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