If you have been contacted by debt collectors, its important that you understand what they can and cannot do.
As a debtor, there are certain laws that have been put in place to protect you. At no time, are debt collectors allowed to hassle, misrepresent, or intimidate you.
When consulting with debt collectors in relation to a debt owed, it’s important that you work with them to find a resolution. Debt collectors should always treat you with courtesy and respect.
What Can Debt Collectors Do?
If you have concerns about how you have been treated or how a matter has been managed, you are well within your rights to notify ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) or ASIC (Australian Securities & Investment Commission).
The ACCC will be able to assist with any debts or arrears relating to goods and services for example phone bills, electricity, water, builders, schools, or other suppliers.
For debts relating to services of a financial nature such as credit cards or loans, you will need to seek assistance from ASIC.
What A Debt Collection Company Cannot Do?
From a legal perspective, a debt collector is not able to impose any of the following:
- Hassle or bully you;
- Misinform, deceive, or misrepresent you;
- Intimidate or push you into doing something you are not comfortable with;
- Provide information to another party about you or your matter without your authority;
- To ask for or expect more than is reasonable from someone who has a disability or is vulnerable.
The above laws don’t just apply to you, they apply to you family, friends any anyone who is linked to you.
Don’t let things slide, if you are treated unfairly, deceived, or harassed, be sure to notify the relevant authority to investigate the matter.
Being Contacted by Debt Collectors
Debt collectors may contact you for several reasons such as discussing a suitable arrangement or to confirm when payment will be made, however contact should only be made for a sufficient reason, these include:
- Payment demands;
- Discussing a suitable payment arrangement;
- To discuss dishonoured arrangements;
- To review an arrangement;
- Reclaiming or examining goods or property
When making contact with a debtor whether it be via telephone, in person or at a place of work, its important to restrict contact and only do so when necessary.
Under the guidelines, you can only make 3 telephone calls per week or 10 per month and you must only call between 7.30am – 9.00pm Mondays to Friday, on weekend the times vary slightly being 9.00am – 9.00pm and generally speaking contact should not be made on public holidays.
If contact is being made in person you may do so on Monday to Friday between 7.30am – 9.00pm, weekends 9.00am – 9.00pm and on public holidays, in person contact should not be made.
Further, if contact is being made at a debtor’s workplace, it should be made during the debtors usual working hours, otherwise between 9.00am – 5.00pm.
Attending a debtor’s home, also known as a field call, should only be used as a last resort or if all other means of contact have been unsuccessful to date.
Protecting your privacy is extremely important, it is the debt collector’s responsibility to ensure your personal information remains “personal” at all times and is not disclosed to a third party without authority to do so.
If you are concerned your privacy has been breached, you should immediately notify the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
If you believe you are being unfairly harassed by a debt collector or you feel they are in breach of the guidelines outlined above, please contact National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. This service is free and completely confidential.