Debt collectors play a star role in most of the stories we hear from our clients. True to character type, they generally are intimidating for people under serious financial stress. Here are some tips on how you should deal with debt collectors and a clear outlook of what your rights are.

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Keep the lines of communication open with debt collectors and be upfront about your situation.  Image courtesy of Beyond Blue.

 

Firstly, do not avoid the situation as debt collectors are paid to seek payment for the debt & if they fail to deliver then their superiors will come down hard on them.  The point is ‘they will find you because they have to’.  So in this situation as the saying goes “the best defence is offence”.

What we mean is, go to them before they come to you!  Be upfront about your situation & tell them why you’re struggling to maintain payments.  Then negotiate with them to arrange a payment plan that suits your current situation or tell them that you are going to seek financial advice to discuss your options.

Most debt collectors would be happy to negotiate with you as long as they can see that you are willing and intending to find a way to pay the debt.  Then they will not contact you until after reasonable time has passed, allowing you to create the arrangement or obtain advice so that you may better understand your options.  This is when you can breathe and think through your options carefully without the added stress of being chased.

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However, we understand that debt collectors can be very intimidating & there are a few rouge operators out there.  So it’s in your best interest to know what your rights are in terms of being chased for a debt that you simply just cannot pay.

So here is a brief summary of what your rights are when being chased by debt collectors:

Allowed

Contact by creditors or collections officers needs to be for a reasonable purpose only.  These reasons can include:
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    • Asking for a payment & explaining the consequences of not paying;
    • Finding out why you haven’t responded to their attempts to contact you;
    • or Finding out why a payment arrangement didn’t work.

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Not allowed 

Collection agencies are prohibited from taking some actions while collecting debts. These actions include:
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Making collection calls incessantly

  • Abusive, offensive, obscene or discriminatory language;
  • Physical force
  • Revealing your debt information to your relative or a third-party
  • Face to face visit if you refuse;
  • Saying that not paying your debts is a criminal offence;
  • Saying that your spouse or partner/other family member must pay your debt if they have no liability;
  • Saying that you will be made bankrupt straight away or that your wages will be garnished (taken) when no court proceedings have started;
  • Threatening to take your possessions if they are not security for the loan or when there is no court judgment;
  • Giving false information about the debt
  • Sending papers that appear to be an official document
  • Pretending to be a government official or attorney

 

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Cannot call

Collection agencies are prohibited from contacting you during these times:
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      • Outside of 7.30 am–9.00 pm on weekdays and 9.00 am–9.00 pm on weekends;
      • On national public holidays;
      • More than 3 times per week or 10 times per month

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Authorised reps

You have a right to have an “Authorised Representative” represent you or advocate for you. Debt Collectors should no longer contact you after this person has been appointed.  For example when clients enter into a Debt Agreement arrangement with Debt Cutter then Debt Cutter becomes their authorised representative.  Debt Collectors can no longer call Debt Cutter clients directly.

Complaints

If you believe you are being unnecessarily harassed by a debt collector, find out here how to complain or write to your lender using our sample letter of complaint about debtor harassment.

There is more information on the SmartMoney site about your options for negotiating with debt collectors. We strongly recommend you visit the site and get fully informed on your options. If you find its all become too much to handle and you feel like all your options have closed in on you, please review our website and see if you are eligible for a Debt Agreement or book a free, no obligation, call back consultation to discuss your situation. Starting the process of a Debt Agreement will stop all contact from debt collectors and we take over the negotiation process for you.

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