Using personal data, but for whose benefit?
By Carlos Osorio, Director of Debt Recovery
The use of personal data is a hot topic and there is a commonly-held suspicion that businesses continue to access individual’s data largely for their own purposes and benefit, not their customers’. But would the same concerns exist if the businesses were overtly using the personal data expressly for customer benefit? I doubt it.
Whilst at first it may not seem obvious, but debt collection is one of the areas where using personal data can directly help the customer. For example, before chasing an unpaid debt wouldn’t it make sense for the business to be obliged to check upfront from available data sources whether the customer is known to be in financial difficulty and struggling with other debts?
Armed with this additional knowledge the business would then be obliged to change their approach to any debt collection activities, soften the tone of their communications, proactively offer forbearance and perhaps even direct the customer to seek independent debt advice. And yet many businesses simply don’t bother. One has to ask are they wilfully ‘turning a blind eye’ - perhaps afraid of finding out something which they would prefer not to know?
When a company or service provider uses your personal data for marketing or for deciding whether to provide you with services or credit then, if things go wrong, shouldn’t they then be morally (if not legally) obliged to use the very same personal data when it comes to helping the customer with unpaid debts? It doesn’t seem right that businesses can ‘pick and choose’ when to use (or not use) personal data.
Recent legislation and regulatory focus has done much to restrict the outright abuse of personal data, but isn’t the natural next step to start to direct businesses on the explicit expectation of when data should be used, especially in areas where customer detriment might be the unintended consequence of not doing so, such as is evident in debt collection?
This would do much to reduce the concerns that businesses often use personal data only when it suits them and not for their customers’ benefit.
Carlos Osorio, Director of Debt Recovery.