Allegations that some debt collections agencies are using heavy-handed methods to retrieve funds for companies are leading a number of players in the industry to take steps towards self-regulation.

Unlike other countries, agencies here need no licences, have no code of conduct and are unregulated.

Many of the firms involved collect money on behalf of retailers, banks, credit card groups and phone companies in situations where consumers fail to pay their bills. There are 50 companies in the industry in Ireland.

Anyone can set up a debt collection agency, and there are no regulations covering how they should operate.

RTE News is aware of allegations that some agencies have written to consumers using documents purporting to be court documents. Others are alleged to use threatening and intimidating tactics.

Many of their methods used by some companies breach regulations used in Britain. But as there are no rules here - no firms are breaking the law. A number of more established companies are now taking steps towards self-regulation of the industry.