A parliamentary question on harassment by licensed moneylenders was posed by the MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Mr. Christopher de Souza. Mr. De Souza put forth the following pointers:
(a) if stronger measures could be put in place to protect borrowers; and (b) if clear guidelines or regulations on acceptable debt collect practices and behaviour were to be introduced.
In his written response on 28 January 2016, Law Minster, Mr. K Shanmugam highlighted that reports against licensed moneylenders between 2013 and 2015 had declined by close to two-thirds. The number of reports filed at the Registry of Moneylenders on activities linked to licensed moneylenders had fallen from 124 reports in 2013 to 45 in 2015.
Mr. K Shanmugam reiterated that there are existing measures sufficient to safeguard the interests of the borrowers. For instance, the Protection from Harassment Act that came into force in 2014 will provide civil and criminal recourse for victims of harassment. The Act protects victims from all types of harassment; for example, alarm or distress, fear, provocation etc. Simply put, debtors will be protected from unreasonable or illegal conducts against creditors, along with licensed moneylenders or their appointed debt collectors. It is important to note that licensed moneylenders who are found to have committed the offence may potentially have their licenses revoked, suspended, or not renewed. Debtors who are going through such behaviours from their licensed moneylender can approach the Registry to make a complaint. To report an unfair practice against a moneylender, reports can be made through the Small Claims Tribunal or the Court under the Consumer Protection. More details can be found via https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/content/minlaw/en.html
Additionally, it was stated in the Minister’s reply that some of the recommendations made by the Advisory Committee has already been implemented. The Ministry of Law will also be looking to implement other changes on moneylending in the very near future. However, a review to look into plans to introduce the guidelines for licensed moneylenders on acceptable debt collection practices will be shelved to a later date. This is to allow the moneylending industry some leeway to adjust to other changes in regulations. A supplement to the Moneylenders Act and Rules was only just issued by the Registrar of Moneylender last week.
Continue to watch this space for more changes and updates.