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15-310MR NAB changes debt collection practices following concerns by ASIC
National Australia Bank (NAB) has made changes to its debt collection practices following ASIC concerns that some of NAB’s collection letters may have been misleading, deceptive or unconscionable.
ASIC was concerned that NAB was sending debt collection letters to customers using letterheads for "Fairhalsen Collections" and "Brunswick Collections Services", which may have given the incorrect impression that NAB had sold, outsourced or otherwise escalated a debt when this was not the case. These letters only disclosed that the entity was a division of NAB in fine print at the bottom of the page.
ASIC was also concerned that letters sent to some customers during the collection process stated that if the debt was not paid, or contact made:
- legal proceedings for recovery of the entire debt might commence without further notice and that such proceedings could result in a judgment being entered and/ or bankruptcy;
- a debt collector might visit the customer’s home to collect the debt; or
- NAB might use any other legal action necessary to collect the debt.
In fact, for the majority of recipients, such action was either unlikely or would only be considered at a later stage in the collection process.
In response to ASIC’s concerns NAB has removed from its collection letters:
- references to Fairhalsen Collections and Brunswick Collection Services
- representations in relation to face-to-face contact, legal action and bankruptcy (unless such action is likely to occur).
ASIC Deputy Chairman Peter Kell said, 'Creditors and collectors are entitled to accurately explain the consequences of non-payment of a debt, but the consequences must not be misrepresented or overstated. The threat of legal proceedings and bankruptcy can be very stressful. Collectors must not threaten legal action if such action is not possible, not intended, or not under consideration.’
ASIC acknowledges NAB’s cooperation in relation to this matter.
In July 2014, ASIC and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued a revised version of their joint Debt collection guideline: for collectors and creditors (RG 96). The revised guideline assists creditors and collectors to ensure that collection activity is undertaken in a way that is consistent with the important Commonwealth consumer protection laws that the ACCC and ASIC administer.