A telecom operator sold its receivables to a collection agency, which began collecting debts from thousands of people. A dispute arose over the agency's collection charges, which according to the Consumer Ombudsman violate the Debt Collection Act.
After the telecom operator ACN Communications Finland Oy stopped operating in Finland, it sold its receivables based on the sale of telephone services to Alektum Perintä Oy. Alektum Perintä Oy has sent ACN Communications Finland Oy's former customers about 16,000 collection letters. Bills concern the period 2004-2005.
According to complaints received from consumers, Alektum Perintä Oy has charged 21 euros for each payment reminder. The Consumer Ombudsman, who monitors debt collection, says that Alektum Perintä Oy can charge a maximum of 5 euros for a written reminder on the basis of the Debt Collection Act and has called for the company to lower collection charges to 5 euros. The company has stated that in its opinion collection charges are open to interpretation and consequently it has not complied with the Consumer Ombudsman's request.
According to the Debt Collection Act, when a creditor collects receivables from a consumer the creditor can add interest on late payments and a maximum of 5 euros to cover collection charges. If collection has been entrusted to a professional collection agency, the agency must send the debtor a demand for payment if it intends to take legal action. A collection agency that has been commissioned to collect receivables can charge a maximum of 21 euros for a demand for payment if the debt principal does not exceed 250 euros and 45 euros if the debt principal exceeds 250 euros. This is not the situation if the collection agency has itself become the creditor, however. Once receivables are in the agency's name it becomes an ordinary creditor and can collect a maximum of 5 euros for sending a reminder-
The Consumer Ombudsman assisted a consumer when this matter was handled by the Consumer Complaint Board. The Consumer Ombudsman proposed that the decision in the case should be applied to all similar cases as a precedent. Alektum Perintä Oy said, however, that the matter must be decided in court and that it will not comply with the Consumer Complaint Board's decisions in the matter. Alektum Perintä Oy filed a suit in the Helsinki District Court on 15 May 2006.