IMA head discounts repo bikies report


The Institute of Mercantile Agents (IMA) has expressed doubts about a newspaper report that appears to allege that outlaw motorcycle gang members were working for repossession agencies in Victoria as a result of changes to debt collection regulations there. <br /><br /> The Institute represents debt collectors, investigators, process servers and repossession agents. The Herald Sun alleges that a “Hells Angels boss”, in plain clothes and carrying a baseball bat, had attended “an attempt to repossess about $1 million worth of machinery” belonging to an unnamed Victorian trucking firm “that is in receivership”.

By Rob McKay | October 5, 2011

The Institute of Mercantile Agents (IMA) has expressed doubts about a newspaper report that appears to allege that outlaw motorcycle gang members were working for repossession agencies in Victoria as a result of changes to debt collection regulations there.

The Institute represents debt collectors, investigators, process servers and repossession agents.

The Herald Sun alleges that a "Hells Angels boss", in plain clothes and carrying a baseball bat, had attended "an attempt to repossess about $1 million worth of machinery" belonging to an unnamed Victorian trucking firm "that is in receivership".

The newspaper says the firm owes "tens of millions" to "reputable financiers including major banks".

It further alleges that the man had been present at when an Isuzu truck was repossessed at the Melbourne Fish Market and that the repossession agency involved had denied having any links to the unnamed man.

The newspaper says the repeal of the law and its provision that repossession agents be licensed had led to concern in the sector that it was now open to bikie gang infiltration.

Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien is expected to release a discussion paper on Friday as part of a national harmonisation effort.

The previous Labor government repealed the state’s existing law with effect from July 1.

IMA Executive Director Alan Harries believes bikie gang infiltration in its sector is something of an "urban legend" and did not discount that the thrust of the newspaper report was in error, especially as that the legal change had occurred only two months ago.

The fact that somebody is a member of a motorcycle gang of itself did not, of itself, mean he was a criminal or was engaged in an unlawful act, he says.

Of more concern was that allegation of being armed with a baseball bat.

"It seems to me to be extreme because there are a variety of regulations that would prevent that happening, not least of which were Australian Securities and Investment Commission and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission debt collection guidelines which actually prohibit such behaviour," Harries says.

"I would doubt that anyone that is engaged in the lawful business of being a debt collector or repo-agent would do that because the consequences are so dire and the industry understands that."

Harries insisted that banks and finance companies had their brands exposed when debt collectors do their business.

"The last thing they want is a cowboy turning up," he says.

Harries explains that the bulk of Australian repossession work is done by five or six firms known as repossession syndicates which subcontracts the work to agencies in the particular regions.

Suitable agencies are prescribed in strict service level agreements that can run to 80 pages and they will not appear without written authority from the financier or bank.

"Usually, banks and finance companies don’t want the trucks - they want the money," Harries says.

He belies that, "99 times out of 100", if the money owed is furnished to the collector, the vehicles will be left alone.

In a situation not unlike road transport, repossession regulation is fragmented on state lines, with the ACT requiring no licence and New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia having heavily prescriptive regimes.

Victoria has moved requirements to that demanded under the Fair Trading Act, which bans "prohibited person", specifically an undischarged bankrupt or a person found guilty of an indictable offence in the preceding five years.

Harries says he has seen early drafts of the discussion paper he had seen indicated that much work needed to be done on it and to get all the states and territories on board.

Bookmark and Share



You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook