WHAT TO DO IF YOU'RE HARASSED BY CREDITORS....
Creditors are entitled to contact you to collect unpaid debts. They can contact you by letter, phone call, text message or even a home visit.
However, they have to act within the law and treat you fairly. If they don't, you can make a complaint.
In this blog we’ll look a little more into why they may be contacting you, when they can do and their responsibilities.
What to do if a debt collector contacts you.
The first thing is don’t panic, take a deep breath, sit down and read or listen to the correspondence carefully. A debt collector may be working within a department for the company you owe money to, or they may be calling from an entirely separate company that has been ‘hired’ to deal with collecting your debt.
You should always be cooperative with a debt collector, this will help you achieve the best outcome.
Always explain your full situation including debts you may have with other providers.
Return calls and correspondence as soon as practical
Agree to payment arrangements that are within your budget
Keep the debt collector informed of your contact details and any changes to them.
When can a Debt collector contact me?
Always make sure you note down when a debt collector contacts you, keep it written own so you have a record, including any names where possible.
Debt Collectors can contact you via one of 3 main methods, in writing, via phone or face to face. There are guidelines on when these may occur:
In writing or via phone, no more than 3 times a week or 10 times within any month between 7:30am and 9pm weekdays and 9am to 9pm at weekends.
Face to Face, no more than once a month between 9am and 9pm. They should only use this method if they can’t get hold of you any other way.
Ways Debt Collectors may contact you.
As alluded to above, there are a number of ways a debt collector may get in contact with you. They may try phone, social media, email, text message or in person. A Debt Collector must at all times try their best to make sure the person they are contacting is you and that they do not give any of your personal information to anyone else as per the privacy laws in your state.
Visiting at home is usually a resort, however is this does occur then a debt collector must follow certain guidelines such as:
Leaving immediately if you ask them to.
Treating you, your family and friends with courtesy and respect
Respecting your right to privacy in front of any third party.
Not putting your house under ‘surveillance’ by watching, following or staying around monitoring your whereabouts.
Not give any untrue or misleading information regarding the debt by suggesting someone else may become liable for it.
Not speak to anyone under the age of 18 including your children about the debt unless you have given them specific permission to do so.
Not cause embarrassment to you or any other party.
Reasons a Debt Collector may contact you.
Debt collectors can only contact you if they have a valid reason. Reasons may include:
Demanding payment on an overdue account.
Providing further information about an account.
Offering full and final settlement on accounts or alternative payment options.
Reviewing payment arrangements after the expiry of an existing one.
They may want to provide information about what may happen and your legal obligations in relation to debts such as the consequences of not paying.
Explaining the disconnection of services or utilities and when this will occur if payments are not brought back into line.
They may want to repossess secured goods that a provider may have a registered interest over such as a car or rental goods.
To find out why you may have broken an agreed payment arrangement or not responded to attempts to contact you.
What must a Debt Collector NOT do
As part of the guidelines there are certain thins a debt collector must not do and are against the law. If you feel like there have been breached you should get in contact the police and an external dispute company as soon as possible.
A Debt collector must not:
Use or threaten physical force of any kind towards you, any member of your family or people connected with you.
Damage or threaten to damage your property.
Block access to your property or block your way.
Remain on your property when asked to leave, unless they have a Court Order.
A Debt collector must also not:
Shout at or verbally abuse you (including making personal or demeaning comments).
Use obscene or racist language.
Contact you more than necessary or at unreasonable times.
Make any false statements about the amount you owe.
Make false statements about what will happen if the debt is not paid or what they intend to do (e.g. repossess your car).
Send letters demanding payment that are designed to look like court documents.
Pretend to be (or to act for) a solicitor, court or government body.
A debt collector must also not take advantage of you such as:
If you are disadvantaged because of illness, disability, age, illiteracy or other circumstances.
If you are not familiar with the law, the debt recovery process, or the consequences of not paying a debt.
Complaining about a debt collector
If you are being harassed or intimidated by a debt collector, you should make a formal complaint in writing to the collector.
If this does not fix the problem, you should make a complaint to an external resolution scheme such as AFCA.