Lots of people wrestle with financial challenges at some point in their lives, and most of these individuals are very likely to be familiar with debt collectors. A debt collector is a person whose job is to collect debts on behalf of a company. A debt collector can either be an employee of a company you owe money to, or they can be a 3rd party servicing a lender. As you can imagine, it’s not an easy task to squeeze money out of people who have none. It would be safe to say that most people in debt are already pressured about their financial challenges, and other people phoning them to remind them of this doesn’t always end smoothly. Consequently, debt collectors have a lot of detrimental connotations. There have been numerous cases of individuals being harassed by debt collectors so it’s crucial that individuals who are being contacted by debt collectors have knowledge of their rights and effective ways to handle these types of communications.
Learn about Your Legal Rights.
Understanding what debt collectors can and can’t do is vital in being able to suitably manage any interactions you may have with them. Under Australian Consumer Law, a debt collector must not:
Use any physical force or coercion (forcing you to do something).
Hassle or harass you to an unreasonable extent.
Mislead or deceive you (or attempting to do so).
Take advantage of people that are vulnerable, disabled, or have any other similar circumstances affecting them.
Not only do these laws apply to a debt collector’s behaviour towards you, but also your partner or spouse, family members, or anyone else connected with you. If you find yourself in a situation where a debt collecting is breaking these Laws, make a formal complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)1.
How And When Debt Collectors Can Contact You.
It’s additionally vital to recognise how and when debt collectors can contact you. They can do this by phone, letters, emails, social media sites or by seeing you face to face. Whenever you have communications with debt collectors, it’s integral that you keep a document of such interaction including the time and date of contact, the source of contact (email, phone, person), the debt collector’s name and business name, and what was said during the correspondence. It’s also crucial to note that debt collectors must respect your right to privacy and supplying your financial information to another party without your permission is breaking the Law.
The Australian Consumer Law also stipulates that:
Debt collectors can only make up to 3 telephone calls or letters per week (or 10 each month).
Debt collectors can only phone you between 7:30 am and 9pm on weekdays and 9am to 9pm on weekends.
Debt collectors can only make face-to-face contact between 9am and 9pm on weekdays and weekends, once a month, and can only visit you if you haven’t addressed any of their previous attempts at communication.
There is to be no contact from debt collectors on national public holidays.
Debt collectors must be reasonably sure that if they contact you electronically (social media or email), that your account is not shared with another person and their communication can not be viewed by anyone but you.
If you do agree to meet a debt collector face to face, any threats of assault or violence should be reported to the police immediately1.
Know What Options You Have.
A debt collector’s job is not to be friendly and give you a series of debt relief options. Their task is to encourage you to repay as much of your debt as possible, as fast as possible. So, the best thing to do is to have an understanding of what your debt relief alternatives are. You can undertake some research on the internet to uncover what alternatives you have or you could seek professional debt management advice (most companies will offer free advice at first). Once you recognise what choices you have, you’ll be more confident in dealing with debt collector’s threats or demands, or any other collection tactics. If you don’t understand what your options are, it makes the job of the debt collector much easier by being able to control the interaction and instructing you of what choices you have, whether they’re true or not.
It’s always a tough situation when you come into contact with debt collectors. Their job is very difficult, and they’ll use any means possible for you to repay your debt since the quantity of debt you repay and how quickly you repay it determines the commissions that debt collectors receive from lenders. The best way to deal with correspondences with debt collectors is to know your legal rights, when and how they can contact you, document all communications, and knowing what debt relief alternatives you have. If you’re aware of these points, then it will notably improve your correspondences with debt collectors and hopefully won’t add extra stress to your current financial condition. If you need any advice about what debt relief options you have, contact the professionals at Bankruptcy Advice on 1300 879 867 or visit their website for additional information: www.bankruptcy-advice.com.au/.