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Collecting debt responsibly

IT SEEMS reasonable that debt collectors treat debtors fairly. However, the ACCC continues to receive complaints.

In August, the Federal Court found that Cash Return Mercantile Pty Ltd and its former agent Sharyn McCaskey engaged in undue harassment, coercion and misleading conduct.

The ACCC obtained redress for these people and much-needed guidance about what a debt collector must not do.

Firstly, they must not lie or mislead you in an attempt to make you pay.

They must not visit you in person if you have told them to contact you another way. If you do not tell them this, they will have to visit you.

The ACCC considers it is unreasonable for you to be contacted between 9 pm and 7.30 am.

It is also unreasonable for you to be contacted unnecessarily, more than three times a week (if you answer) to a maximum of 10 calls a month.

Collectors should only discuss your debt with you. They can contact work colleagues, family, friends and house-mates to find out where you are, but they should not be made to feel liable for the debt and they don’t have to say where you are.

A collector should not communicate with you if you have nominated some-one to act on your behalf, such as a financial counsellor, a lawyer or another person.

If you do not think you have a debt, write to the collector and explain why.

n Professor Allan Fels is chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

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