01.ASIC and the ACCC remind collectors to be reasonable
The ACCC and ASIC have issued an updated guideline that explains what debt collectors can and can’t do when getting in touch with debtors.
The booklet offers guidance on:
- how, when and how often debtors can be contacted
- being “flexible, fair and realistic” and reducing collection activity when debtors cooperate
- how communication methods such as social media, email and SMS should and shouldn’t be used.
"Creditors and collectors have generally provided ongoing support for this guideline. However, on occasions some creditors and debt collectors go beyond what is reasonable and mislead, harass or act abusively towards debtors. This is unacceptable," ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
Collectors still have plenty of leeway to stay on the case, however. For instance, the guideline recommends that collectors "do not contact a debtor more than three times per week, or 10 times per month at most".
Face-to-face contact should be limited to once a month, but "if the debtor provides an alternative and reasonable location for contact and is able to be contacted at that location, the debtor should not be contacted at their home".
And the guidance is less than clear-cut when it comes to contact by email, SMS, telephone or social media, where collectors are merely told that they should avoid "unnecessary" or "unreasonable" contact.
The guideline, initially published in 2005, was revised to take in new consumer protections afforded by the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 and the introduction of the Australian Consumer Law in 2011 along with other new privacy laws and principles.
The ACCC and ASIC have shared responsibility for overseeing the debt collection industry since 2002.