Dealing with debt collectors - video transcript
Transcript of video about your rights when dealing with debt collectors, presented by Michael Saadat, Senior Executive Leader, Deposit Takers, Credit and Insurers, uploaded 18 June 2015.
What is a debt collector?
A debt collector is a person who is chasing up a debt in the course of a business. For example, it could be someone collecting a debt for themselves; it could be someone collecting a debt on behalf of someone else; or it could be where the debt has been sold, the debt collector is collecting a debt they have purchased.
What are my rights when dealing with debt collectors?
The law provides several important protections for consumers. By law, debt collectors must not:
- trespass on your property
- use overbearing tactics or abusive language towards you
- they must not harass or contact you more than what is necessary
- they must not mislead or deceive you, or
- take unfair advantage of you because of illness, disability, your age, illiteracy or because you are not familiar with the law.
This also extends to treatment of your family.
They must respect your privacy at all times and not discuss your debt with someone else unless they've got your permission.
You can expect the debt collector to treat you in a professional way.
In what circumstance can a debt collector contact me?
Debt collectors must have a good reason to contact you. They can contact you via phone, letter, email, social media or by visiting you in person when they are not able to contact you in another way.
If a debt collector does contact you via email or social media they must be reasonably sure that the account is not shared with another person and that their message cannot be viewed by anyone except you.
A debt collector is entitled to contact you to:
- provide information about your account
- make a demand for payment
- find out why you haven’t met an agreed repayment plan
- review a payment plan after an agreed period
- and advise you of consequences if a payment is not made.
They can also inspect or recover mortgaged goods if they have a right to do so.
Debt collectors should only contact you in the following circumstances:
A maximum of three phone calls or letters per week or up to ten per month between the hours of:
- 7.30 in the morning and 9.00 o'clock at night on weekdays
- 9.00 o'clock in the morning and 9.00 o'clock at night on weekends
And no contact at all on national public holidays.
There is usual no need for a debt collector to visit you in person if you can arrange repayment in another way. But it may be necessary if you haven't responded to phone calls or if your identity or location is in doubt. Face-to-face contact should only occur between 9.00 o'clock in the morning and 9.00 o'clock at night on weekdays and weekends and not more than once a month.
What can I do if a debt collector has acted unprofessionally?
If a debt collector is harassing or intimidating you, you should make a formal complaint in writing to the debt collector first. If you're not happy with the outcome of your complaint you can also make a complaint to the debt collector’s external dispute resolution scheme, such as the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Credit and Investments Ombudsman.
You should report conduct involving a threat of physical force or violence to the police immediately.
If you have a dispute about a debt involving non-financial services such as a power bill or a fine you can also contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or go through the steps on ASIC’s MoneySmart website.
If your debt relates to a financial service or product like a loan or credit card you can also report your concerns to ASIC.
Legal advice and free financial counselling services are also available in your state or territory.
What is ASIC's role here?
ASIC looks at whether the alleged conduct breaches the laws that we are responsible for. We do not take further action in all matters reported to us but we do use all information to consider whether there are systemic issues of public interest that should be addressed.
It’s important to remember ASIC is a regulator and any action we may take we aim at protecting the public generally from serious misconduct rather than resolving individual disputes.