The debt collection sector has enjoyed strong growth over the past few years. Intrum Justitia, one of Europe’s biggest credit management companies, saw a pre-tax profit of 1.2 million kronor ($140.4 million) last year – an increase of 20 percent over 2013.
While the situation in Sweden has not been that dramatic, the sector has seen steady, gradual growth. In Sweden, collection notices in mailboxes are becoming increasingly common.
“The growth in the number of credit purchases throughout the society has resulted in a situation where more people are unable to make their payments on time,” Claes Månsson, spokesman for the debt collection trade group Svensk Inkasso, told Swedish public radio SR Ekot.
While many people are able to pay immediately when the collection letter arrives, for some, keeping up with the penalty interest payments is difficult. This is especially a problem for people with low or limited incomes.
“Interest rates on debt can be between eight and 24 percent and then there are all the fees,” Olle, a retiree, told SR Ekot. “A debt that started off being 39 kronor can quickly get up to 3,900 kronor.”
He wants collection agencies to stop imposing what he calls “sky high” penalties.
But he has not got much support from the Data Inspection Board, the public authority that ensures that debt collection rules and regulations are followed by companies.
“Based on our supervisory activities, our experience is that by and large, companies follow good collection practices, especially the larger firms,” said Malin Fredholm, a lawyer with Datainspektionen, told SR Ekot.