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veen  ·  366 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Never speak to a debt collector

Where in Europe did you do work related to debt? Last year, a phenomenal Dutch documentary called Schuldig! brought the debt industry in public view.

It's not as awful here as in the article, but the incentives in debt collecting are such that it only costs a few eurocents to hire a debt collector. If the debt is collected, the collector gets a large share of the interest and fees IIRC. Companies are also free to add late payment fees as they please. One woman in the documentary ended up with a debt of 12,000 on a 1,900 euro large bed. Another problem we have is that there is no way to declare bankruptcy. Instead, judges can order people to be put into a 'debt solvency programme', which means that government gets to control your finances until most of the debt has been paid off. It's humiliating, demoralizing and insulting, especially when so much debt consists of interest and late fees.

The title of the documentary means both 'guilty' and 'in debt' - we don't have a word to distinguish the two. Calvinism has influenced a lot of our culture around money. On the one hand it means that we have a reputation for being frugal and less exuberant with money, but the flip side of that coin is that debt is still seen as a sin, as an obligation that must be paid back (instead of a risk that the other party took and maybe shouldn't have).