A debt collector is a person or organisation whose job is to cajole consumers into paying overdue debts.
Sometimes, the debt collector will insist on immediate repayment of the entire debt. At other times, the debt collector will discuss a plan involving staggered repayments and/or a write-off of part of the debt.
Whatever approach the debt collector takes, it’s important to remember that you have rights and that the debt collection industry is highly regulated.
How they can contact you
There are strict rules around how or when debt collectors can contact consumers.
According to the rules, debt collectors can’t:
- Contact you on national public holidays, whether by phone, email, social media or face to face
- Contact you by email or social media unless they’re reasonably sure your account isn’t shared with anyone else and their message won’t be seen by anyone else
- Phone you more than three times per week
- Phone you more than 10 times per month
- Phone you before 7.30am and after 9.00pm on weekdays
- Phone you before 9.00am and after 9.00pm on weekdays
- Visit you in person if repayments arrangements can be worked out by phone, email or letter
- Visit you before 9.00am and after 9.00pm (assuming phone, email and letter have failed)
- Visit you more than once per month
How they can interact with you
There are also strict rules around how debt collectors must act when they do engage with you, whether by phone, email, social media or face to face.
Debt collectors are forbidden from doing the following:
- Verbally abusing you
- Threatening to harm you or anyone else
- Threatening to damage your property
- Blocking access to your property
- Refusing to leave your property when asked (unless they have a court order)
- Making false statements about your debts
- Making false statements about the consequences of not paying your debts
- Pretending to be, or pretending to act for, a solicitor, court or government body
Although consumers are legally entitled to be treated with respect, and are entitled to complain if debt collectors overstep the mark, consumers also have certain obligations.
For example, consumers must promptly respond to any phone calls, emails or social media messages they receive from debt collectors.
They must also tell the truth regarding their financial situation and must tell debt collectors when their contact details change.
Consumers must also agree to a repayment plan, if they can afford it.
For more information, please visit ASIC’s official debt collection page.