Correspondence sent to the victims, whose contracts were worth between $1,500 and $3,500, used a range of scare tactics, including claiming that legal action could affect their credit rating and lead to enforcement action by the sheriff’s office.
Papaioannou and Local Blue Pages each pleaded guilty to four charges of undue coercion under section 168 of the Australian Consumer Law before the Heidelberg Magistrates Court.
In addition to the company’s $40,000 fine, the court imposed a $5,000 fine on Papaioannou.
Consumer Affairs Victoria director Simon Cohen said local blue pages repeatedly and aggressively pursue small business owners using tactics designed to intimidate them into paying debts they don’t necessarily owe. .
“The threats made by the local blue pages undoubtedly caused a lot of stress for the victims,” he says.
But Papaioannou says he is just a small business owner with six employees trying to collect unpaid debts.
Some [advertisers] threatened to break our debt collectors‘ legs if they didn’t stop calling.
“They made me a scapegoat,” he says. “All I was doing was running after the debts people owed me. In my opinion we made mistakes, but I wasn’t trying to scam anyone, I was just trying to run after my accounts. I hired a debt collector who went a little rough, I admit. I’ll live with it.
Papaioannou says some of the companies that owed debt to local blue pages were more aggressive in their tactics.
“If they looked at how debtors treat us, they would be horrified,” he says. “Some [advertisers] threatened to break our debt collector’s legs if he didn’t stop calling.”
Papaioannou says Local Blue Pages changed its debt collection process as a result of the court case.
“There are a few technical aspects that we have already changed,” he says. “The number of calls we make was apparently a bit too high, so we stopped calling and only sent invoices. We sent a VCAT request with which we said we were going to go from before, but apparently they have to be deposited first. that was incorrect. It didn’t even occur to me that I was doing anything wrong, I was just collecting the money that was due to me from.
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