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24 Jan, 2009 06:27

Drowning in debt? Call anti-collectors!

Banks across Russia are reporting a rise in failed loan repayments – and some companies see an opportunity for making a buck by helping people to get out of debt.

When a recession kicks in, those in debt are most at risk. It is not rare for people with loans to find themselves jobless and unable to meet their repayments.

Desperation sets in as penalties rise and the pressure to repay grows.

This was exactly what happened to Sergey.

“I had several bank loans but then I missed one of the payments and my fines and debts immediately started to grow like mushrooms. They started to put an unbearable pressure on me demanding their money back,” Sergey said.

Sergey got help from a law firm that specialises in this type of problem. They call themselves ‘anti-collectors’ – the opposite of debt-collectors.

Agency director Dmitry Polukarov says that in almost every case there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“It's often the case that we make a deal with the bank prolonging the payment period and even canceling all the fines. And all that our client has to do is to pay off the clean debt in several even portions,” Dmitry says.

This kind of business started to appear in Russia just two years ago at the peak of the borrowing frenzy.

Their numbers multiplied as more and more people borrowed more than they could afford and fell behind with their repayments.

Companies like Dmitry’s give legal consultations to people who find themselves in trouble with bank loans. They often take on the negotiations with the bank and They go to court where necessary to prove that the law is on the side of the borrower.

Some banks are not pleased with these new players in the debt business.

“From the point of view of the bank, it's not a good activity because everyone must follow the agreements they sign. And the actions of these people that call themselves anti-collectors is not very good,” bank vice president Viktor Springel says.

Still, the anti-collector business is growing from day to day in Russia. Dmitry Polukarov had to expand his company recently, as new clients fall victim to the liquidity crisis.