It is generally very challenging to collect consumer debt in Latin America. The reasons are multiple and can include the following.
Reasons behind unpaid consumer debt in Latin America
- Low wages in the debtor’s country, limiting payment options substantially;
- Most of the countries in Latin America cope with dysfunctional legal systems, making legal options for foreign creditors unattractive, unpractical or impossible;
- Currency exchange rates may make outstanding foreign debt for consumers in Latin America overtime more expensive, which reduces the likelihood of fast recovery or any payments at all;
- It is typically a challenge for foreign creditors to locate debtors in Latin America. Registries or of poor quality, inaccessible or inexistent, and skip tracing options are either limited or expensive.
Payment or settlement of consumer debt in Latin America
This might paint a depressive landscape for the foreign creditor who is looking to claim payment of outstanding consumer debt in Latin America. Are there any positive aspects and options to indeed collect? Sure there are, and they depend on the following:
- Consumers living in Latin America may have an interest in having a clean sheet with respect to their outstanding debts, incurred abroad. At some point in their lives, they may consider returning abroad. This means they would want to look for a clean credit sheet abroad. This especially goes for foreign nationals living in Latin America, who at some point may want to return to their country of origin, or do business there;
- Technically, also foreign creditors may attempt to credit register bad payers in the country of residence in Latin America. This causes a negative credit rate, and entails that the debtor may run into problems when applying for mortgages or other credits locally. This may stimulate Latin American consumer debtor to pay or to settle outstanding foreign debt;
- Also in Latin America, as everywhere in the world, psycologically people may not like to stick around with potential financial problems. Aware or not of the possible financial consequences locally in their country, the feeling of having outstanding debts may cause uncertainty and may open the door for payment negotiations;
- Pride, reputation and prestige may also play a role. Being chased by creditors, also if they are from abroad, is for many people a reason to cooperate and looking for a payment solutions or settlement;
- Foreign creditors are likely to be a lot more flexible in negotiations than local creditors. At the end of the day, legal leverage and options are limited, and often foreign debt is an easier write off for foreign creditors. This means that the B2C debtor in Latin America will have the opportunity to negotiate a beneficial settlement deal, which might include a long term payment plan, a discount, or a combination. This may, it is attractive for the debtor to deal with the foreign debt, and to clean credit history abroad and potentially at home;
- For foreign creditors, a portfolio of foreign bad debt may offer a business opportunity. Written off debts may be attractive to international or local debt purchasers in Latin America. This way, the foreign creditor is at least partially compensated financially, and it does not need to further invest time and money in collections.
Tools for B2C debt collection strategies in Latin America
For foreign creditor trying to collect B2C debt in Latin America, the main interest is to get paid as much as possible, as soon as possible. What that means in practice is different for every creditor or every single debt collection case (depending on location of debtor(s), financial capacity, level of cooperation, leverage in Latin America) and is to be assessed on a case by case basis.
A couple of tools we recommend to look at for foreign creditors, to design your Debt Collection Strategy for B2C debts in Latina America are:
- Look for specialized local debt collector who works on a no cure, no pay basis; or an international provider with a local branch, collection partner or representative;
- To create local leverage to enforce payments from debtors in Latin America or negotiate settlements, check if you can credit register consumers at the local credit bureau, and offer debtors that they will be removed from the credit bureau once debt is paid or settled;
- Be prepared to offer long term payment plans to debtors in Latin America;
- Be flexible and offer debtors settlement options with discounts, in exchange for immediate payments;
- Look for specialized B2C portfolio purchasers, international or local Latin American ones;
- Use local law firms to pressure where possible and necessary, but where the rule of thumb should be no legal actions. A notarized letter from a local law firm, in combination with a call or a meeting, may be a strong tool to negotiate settlements with consumer debtors in Latin America.
Cobroamericas is a provider of international debt collection services and focuses on collections in Latin America and the Caribbean. If you are interested in learning more or discussing issues in connection with B2C debt collection for Latin America, or in connection with international debt collection in Latin America and the Caribbean, please connect with Cobroamericas on Linked-In or follow us on Twitter.
To participate in the conversation about debt collection in Latin America please join the Linked-In Group Debt Collection Latin America.