We are often asked, as a mercantile agency, how we approach collecting debt from individuals.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) have produced a guideline. This guideline helps us to understand how the Commonwealth consumer protection laws apply to debt collectors, as well as in house collection departments within businesses. The guideline is online: https://www.accc.gov.au/publications/debt-collection-guideline-for-collectors-creditors
How may contact be made with a debtor?
If an individual owes you money and will not pay, you are entitled to contact them to ask for payment. You can contact them:
- by phone
- in writing (includes emailing, texting and social media contact)
- in person.
Am I restricted to when I can make contact?
Contact with a debtor must be made at reasonable hours, taking into account their circumstances and reasonable wishes. The following can be considered appropriate times and are the local times in the debtor’s state or territory:
- phone contact between the hours of 7:30am–9:00pm on weekdays; and
- 9:00am–9:00pm on weekends
- No contact recommended on National public holidays
Face to face contact should be an option of last resort. Generally, face to face contact should only be made if reasonable attempts to contact a debtor by less intrusive means such as phone calls, emails or letters have failed, and face to face contact is considered appropriate and necessary. Reasonable hours of contact for face to face contact are:
- 9:00am–9:00pm on weekdays and weekends
- No contact recommended on National public holiday
How often can I make contact?
Debtors are entitled to be free from excessive communication or undue harassment. As a guide, contact should be limited (unless requested or agreed otherwise) to a maximum of 3 phone calls or letters per week (or 10 per month).
Generally, visits to the debtors home (or another agreed location) is not recommended and should only take place if there is no other way to make effective contact with the debtor, or if asked (or agreed) to a visit.
If repayment arrangements can be worked out over the phone or by letter, then face-to-face contact should not be necessary.
You must not:
- physically intimidate the debtor.