A lot of people face financial distress at some point in their lives, and most of these folks are probably familiar with debt collectors. A debt collector is a person whose job is to collect debts on behalf of an organisation. A debt collector can either be an employee of an enterprise you owe money to, or they could be a 3rd party working with a creditor. As you can envision, it’s not a straightforward job to squeeze money out of people who simply don’t have any. Most people in debt are already pressured about their financial complications, and people contacting them to remind them of this doesn’t always end smoothly. Consequently, debt collectors have a lot of negative connotations. There have been a large number of cases of individuals being harassed by debt collectors so it’s crucial that individuals who are being contacted by debt collectors understand their rights and how to handle these kinds of interactions.
Understand Your Legal Rights.
Being aware of what debt collectors can and can’t do is extremely important in having the capacity to properly 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 concern a debt collector’s behaviour towards you, but similarly your partner or spouse, family members, or anyone else connected with you. If you find yourself in a position 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 also important to recognise how and when debt collectors can contact you. They can do this by telephone, mail, emails, social media or by visiting you in person. Every time you have correspondences with debt collectors, it’s critical that you maintain a record of such correspondence including the time and date of contact, the methods of contact (phone, email, person), the debt collector’s name and business name, and what was said during the correspondence. It’s also valuable to note that debt collectors must respect your right to privacy and supplying your financial info to another party without your authorisation is breaking the Law.
The Australian Consumer Law also states that:
Debt collectors can only make up to 3 telephone calls or letters per week (or 10 monthly).
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 answered any of their former 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 personally, 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 pleasant and give you a range of debt relief options. Their job is to urge you to repay as much of your debt as possible, as quickly as possible. So, the best thing to do is to recognise what your debt relief options are. You can carry out some research online to uncover what options you have or you could seek professional debt management advice (most businesses will offer free advice initially). Once you are aware of 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 discussion and advising 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 difficult, and they’ll use any means possible for you to repay your debt since the amount of debt you repay and how quickly you repay it determines the commissions that debt collectors receive from lenders. The best way to handle communications with debt collectors is to have an understanding of your legal rights, when and how they can contact you, document all communications, and understanding what debt relief alternatives you have. If you’re aware of these points, then it will dramatically improve your interactions with debt collectors and hopefully won’t add even more stress to your current financial situation. If you need any advice about what debt relief opportunities you have, talk with the professionals at Bankruptcy Experts Rockingham on 1300 795 575 or visit their website for more information: http://www.bankruptcyexpertsrockingham.com.au.