Functions of Debt Recovery Agents – Strategies | Best Practices

  • Blog|FEMA & Banking|
  • 7 Min Read
  • By Taxmann
  • |
  • Last Updated on 20 April, 2024

Debt Recovery Agents

A Debt Recovery Agent is an individual or an organization that is hired by creditors to collect debts that are past due or in default. The role of a debt recovery agent is to pursue debtors and ensure that they repay what they owe. These agents may work for a debt collection agency or be part of a financial institution's internal collections department. Their methods include sending collection letters, making phone calls, and negotiating payment plans. They are required to operate within the boundaries of legal and ethical standards, adhering to laws such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in the United States, which governs how debt can be collected to prevent abuse or unfair practices.

Tables of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Collecting Funds From Debtors
  3. Remitting Collected Funds
  4. Book-Keeping
  5. Documenting and Reporting
  6. Re-Possessing Security
  7. Initiating Legal Action
  8. Tracing Debtors
  9. Compiling Opinion Reports
  10. Summary
  11. Key Words
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1. Introduction

The most important function of a debt recovery agent is to collect dues/receivables from the specified debtors of the bank or other financial companies as per the agency agreement entered with the respective financial institution. The agent also must remit the collected funds to the principal and must keep an account of the receivables collected and dues yet to be collected.

Another important function of the debt recovery agent is to report the position and developments regarding client if any to the principal on a time-to-time basis.

Apart from the easily collectible receivables, most banks have on their books overdue receivables from debtors who are not traceable, or who show unwillingness to pay or who resist surrendering the security charged. In such cases, the recovery process is difficult and requires handling by specialized collection agencies that possess the required expertise. The functions of repossessing the security, initiating legal action and tracing the vanished debtors may be called as specialized functions of debt collecting agencies.

Both the normal and specialized collection functions will need to be performed in accordance with the recovery policy and procedure prescribed by the bank (principal) and also the regulatory and legal requirements. The functions of agents will correspond to their duties prescribed by law. | Research | FEMA, Banking & NBFC

2. Collecting Funds From Debtors

As mentioned above, collecting dues/receivables is the core function of a debt recovery agent. Receivables refer to the sums of money which have become due in the loan/advances accounts and are payable on due dates by the debtors to the creditors as per the loan/advances agreements entered between the lenders and creditors.

Recovery Agent is assigned with the work of recovering/collecting receivable which have become due for payment but not paid by the borrower. Thus, the receivables in a loan/advance account connote the following essential features:

  • Existence of loan or advance agreement between the creditor (bank) and debtor
  • Repayment obligation of the debtor to repay the loan/advance, in part or whole, to the creditor, as per the loan/advance agreement.
  • Due date on or after which the obligation is required to be discharged by the debtor in favour of the creditor.

In terms of the arrangement between the creditor bank (principal) and the debt recovery agency (agent), the former authorizes the agent to collect specified receivables from the named debtors on or after the specified due dates. The required particulars of the debtors and receivables to be collected from them are furnished by the bank to the agent, along with copies of the relative loan agreements.

Thus, the debt recovery agent is legally authorised to collect the specified receivables from the debtors on behalf of the principal (creditor bank), in terms of:

  • The loan agreement, and
  • The debt collection agency agreement.

The procedure and processes of debt collection, code of conduct in collection process and other regulatory requirements need to be complied by both the principal and agent.

3. Remitting Collected Funds

The funds collected through cheque, draft or cash from the debtor should be sent/deposited by the agent to the lending institution immediately or as per accepted periodicity and as per the agency agreement. It should however be ensured that the amount collected is credited to the client’s loan account immediately if not within a day’s time. Statement of amounts collected should be sent to the financial institution along with the amount, preferably in duplicate. The copy acknowledged by the creditor should be kept on record by the agent in chronological order for future reference.

4. Book-Keeping

While each debt recovery agent may devise their own accounting and book-keeping methods, the following would constitute the minimum requirement of book-keeping for any recovery agent:

  • Lists of debtors received from the principal: Collection of receivables is an ongoing activity of a recovery agent who may receive the debtor’ lists from the principal (bank) from time to time. The debtors’ lists form the basis of the agent’s activities and also the book-keeping required. These should therefore be carefully kept on record in chronological order.
  • Lists of remittances to the principal: “A list of collections made by the agent from the debtors and the proceeds remitted to the principal (bank) be prepared in chronological order and sent to the principal on daily basis or as per the prescribed periodicity.”
  • Ledger account of each debtor: Showing the amounts of receivable due, collected and balance to be collected, should be kept in chronological order. This can be maintained in the computer also. Amounts remitted to the principal out of the collections should also be kept debtor-wise, showing reference of the remittance date and list number. It may be noted that all the collections/recoveries should be remitted to the bank/NBFC. Normally an agent cannot adjust its dues on account of fee against the recoveries made on behalf of the bank.
  • Copies of loan/advances agreements between the debtors and the bank: A bank is obliged to keep confidentiality of its customer’s accounts and records and these should not be divulged to third parties without the customer’s consent. As such, a debt recovery agent must take all due care to keep the required privacy and confidentiality as regards the records of each debtor furnished by the bank/NBFC (principal) and also as regards the collections made and remitted by him to the principal.

5. Documenting and Reporting

A debt recovery agent is required to document the important developments and events in the collection process, particularly in disputed and difficult cases and send reports periodically to the principal in terms of the agency agreement. Some banks/NBFCs may require agents to record conversations they have with the customers during recovery process.

Further, from accounting angle, the receivables collection by the agents would be required to be reported periodically to the principal. The account statement would normally show the due receivable, amount collected and remitted and balance yet to be collected debtor wise.

6. Re-Possessing Security

When the debtor refuses to repay the overdue loan or advance, the bank/NBFC (creditor), in terms of the loan agreement, can take possession of the security charged to it by the debtor by way of hypothecation or pledge of movable assets, and sell the assets without the intervention of the court. Of course, the bank has to follow the legal provisions in this regard, including giving reasonable notice to the debtor (owner of the secured assets). In cases where the creditor’s security is by way of mortgage of immovable property, court’s intervention is required to repossess and sell the security for adjusting the outstanding loan. Under SARFAESI Act, the bank can enforce the mortgage without intervention of court. In both the cases of repossession (i.e., with or without the intervention of court), the creditor can give authority to a collection agency, which has expertise in this field

7. Initiating Legal Action

In case the debtor has means and assets but is unwilling to repay the loan the debt recovery agents can recommend legal action. After obtaining the consent and instructions of the bank or the creditor, the recovery agent can, if it is as per agreed terms, initiate and pursue legal proceedings on behalf of the creditor

8. Tracing Debtors

Debt collecting agencies with nation-wide presence and large resources and computerized database also act as tracing agents of defaulters/debtors who have disappeared and are not traceable by the financial institution. Such services save the credit institution considerable time and money, which is otherwise spent in trying to track down the missing debtors

9. Compiling Opinion Reports

The information on the means and net worth of the principal debtors/guarantors, who have not paid the dues for a long period, remains unknown to the lender for want of information forthcoming from the defaulters. Debt recovery agents can reach the relevant sources to collect information about such debtors/guarantors, their income and assets, which may be very difficult and cumbersome for the lender. Such information can help the lender decide about the feasibility of taking legal action for recovery against the defaulters. The sources of information to compile opinion reports on the means and assets of the defaulters can be obtained discreetly from:

  • Business references
  • Bank references
  • Credit information agencies
  • Chamber of commerce
  • Employers
  • Credit application forms of the defaulters submitted to the creditors

10. Summary

One of the most important functions of Agents is to remit/collect funds from debtors. The other duties of agents are:

(a) Collecting funds from the debtor – debt recovery agents collects funds from customers pertaining to the loan agreement and the debt collection agency agreement.

(b) Remitting collected funds – the funds collected through cheque, draft, cash or various online channels from the debtor should be sent/deposited by the agent to the creditor periodically as per the agency agreement.

(c) Book-keeping- maintenance of accounts needs to be done for deposits collected, ledger of each debtor, funds deposited, copies of loans/advances of debtors are done.

(d) Documenting and reporting – debt recovery agents are required to document the important developments and events in the collection process.

(e) Repossessing security- When the debtor refuses to repay the overdue loan or advance, the creditor can take possession of the security charged to it by the debtor.

(f) Initiating legal action – in case debtor has means and assets but is unwilling to repay, the DRA can initiate legal action

(g) Tracing debtors- Debt collection agencies also act as tracing agents for debtors

(h) Compiling opinion reports -rely on business, bank references, credit cards, etc.

Specialized functions of Debt Recovery Agents include – repossessing security, initiating legal action, tracing the vanished orders, etc

11. Key Words

Collection, receivables, remitting, repossessing, tracing, book-keeping, opinion reports, documenting and reporting.

Disclaimer: The content/information published on the website is only for general information of the user and shall not be construed as legal advice. While the Taxmann has exercised reasonable efforts to ensure the veracity of information/content published, Taxmann shall be under no liability in any manner whatsoever for incorrect information, if any.

One thought on “Functions of Debt Recovery Agents – Strategies | Best Practices”

  1. This blog beautifully delineates the crucial functions of debt recovery agents, shedding light on their indispensable role in the financial ecosystem. It offers valuable insights into the methods and strategies employed by these professionals, emphasizing their significance in facilitating smooth debt recovery processes.

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