Debt collection professionals — like those involved in finance, journalism, public relations and hundreds of other industries — are committed to following a strict code of ethics. Historically, the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians is one of the oldest codes known to mankind.
As the most authoritative trade organization in the global debt collections industry, ACA International relies on a Member Code of Conduct to guide its members. According to the group’s ethics administrator, the Code of Conduct was preceded by ACA’s original Code of Ethics adopted in June 1947.
The latest version of the code was revised and adopted in November of 2016.
Highlights from the 2016 Member Code of Conduct
The seven-page document begins with statements underling the mission and values for debt collection professionals (all verbatim).
ACA International Mission — ACA International contributes to the success of its members and the positive reputation of the credit and collection industry through education, advocacy and services.
ACA International Values — Leadership, Integrity, Respect, Responsibility, Service, and Education.
- I believe every person has worth as an individual.
- I believe every person should be treated with dignity and respect.
- I will make it my personal responsibility to help consumers find ways to pay their just debts.
- I will be professional and ethical.
- I commit to honoring this pledge.
The Preamble ties all three together:
As members of ACA International, we agree to uphold our Association’s Mission and Values as a condition of membership. This Code offers guidance to members regarding our business conduct with respect to the credit and collection related products and services we offer, and memorializes our commitment to our Association’s Mission and Values. Our commitment supports the integrity and honor of the profession, engendering respect for it. We understand and agree these Code provisions are promulgated to encourage, not to restrict, competition in the credit and collection industry and to benefit those consuming member goods and services by setting acceptable standards for member activity.
The main body of the code is delineated into five canons.
This section discusses how members should relate to one another. For example, § I.A states, “We commit to advancing the spirit of collegiality and professionalism toward our fellow members” while § I.C maintains, “We will not knowingly or with reckless disregard of the truth misrepresent the commercial or professional qualifications, certifications, credentials, affiliations, memberships, record, capacity, experience, or abilities of any other member.”
The principles behind conducting ethical business relationships are covered in Canon II.
For example, § II.A states, “As goods or services providers, clients, or customers, we will honor our business agreements and act consistently with the terms to which we have agreed.”
And from § II.B: “As goods or services providers, we will accurately inform our business customers and clients of the true charges, fees, or interest for goods or services rendered.”
In Canon III, the code moves to the all-important area of consumer relationships where it drills down to numerous core tenets of ACA International.
- We will foster effective communication and the exchange of information with clients, customers, and consumers to encourage increased awareness and education regarding the lawful extension of credit and collection of debt.
- We will avoid careless dishonesty, provision of misinformation, or causing unnecessary confusion to clients, consumers, and other third parties in our communications regarding our credit and debt collection activity.
- We acknowledge that at times this may mean providing an amount, type, or frequency of information which is not required by law in order to facilitate understanding and dispel misinformation.
- We acknowledge that an informed individual is more likely an understanding and cooperative individual.
- We acknowledge the importance of proprietor, board member, manager and employee knowledge of applicable legal and regulatory requirements, especially for all employees who directly interact with consumers, or who devise policies and procedures governing employee interaction with consumers.
- We commit to periodic and ongoing education, as well as the retraining of those employees we have learned may not understand applicable compliance obligations.
We will respond to all consumer disputes without malice and in accordance with the time frames and in the manner required by local, state, and federal law. We will avoid the creation or maintenance of unreasonable barriers for consumers to submit a dispute.
We will establish and maintain policies and processes to capture, track, and attempt to resolve consumer complaints. We will avoid the creation or maintenance of unreasonable barriers for consumers to submit a complaint.
We commit to establishing, implementing, and following processes, procedures, and systems to reasonably ensure personal sensitive or confidential information is not improperly disclosed to people who are not entitled to it, and to take corrective action in cases of improper disclosure.
To reasonably ensure the reliability of account data received from or disclosed to third parties, we will implement risk management and supervisory controls to select and manage data and to identify data or data sources which may be invalid.
Canons IV and V bring the member commitment full circle with language addressing accountability to ACA International as well as the organization’s values and mission.
As members, we demonstrate our commitment to our Association’s Mission and Values by conducting ourselves and our business consistent with the following guiding principles in support of the collective membership.
As members, we demonstrate our commitment to our Association’s Mission and Values by conducting ourselves and our business consistent with the following guiding principles in our participation in the industry and the profession.
In-house Efforts for Debt Collection Professionals
Optio was founded on a framework of corporate responsibility that is detailed on a dedicated web page explaining its mission, vision and values including commitment, respect, integrity, accountability and transparency.
The agency’s commitment to ethical practices is underlined by ongoing training programs covering the ACA International Code of Conduct as well as compliance, data security, confidentiality and privacy. Compliance training, in particular, is directed by a team of certified ACA Credit and Collection Compliance Officers.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation focused on an individualized debt collections program for your organization.