What to do if you owe the debt
Work out what you can afford to pay
If you’re struggling to pay back money you owe, the first thing to do is to work out what you can actually afford to pay by doing a simple budget. How to work out what you can afford to pay.
If you can afford to pay something
Start paying the amount you can afford and get in touch with your creditor straight away to put a repayment agreement in place.
If you can’t afford to pay anything
Call us on 1800 007 007 straight away for advice.
YOUR CREDITOR’S RIGHTS
Creditors have rights under the law and as a result of the contract you have with them. These rights allow your creditor to pursue you for money you owe them.
Your creditor’s rights
They can take action to recover their money by following a lawful process. They may:
- send you a default notice. When the loan is for personal purposes or to buy an investment property a default notice must be sent (giving at least 30 days to pay) before further action is taken;
- accelerate the debt. This means the entire debt becomes due and payable. For loans for personal purposes or to buy an investment property, a default notice must have been sent and the time given in which to pay the debt must have expired.
- seize any property they have secured – including repossessing your home. The creditor cannot take property that is not security for the loan unless they obtain a court order;
- evict you from rented premises if they are your landlord. Notice is usually required before eviction;
- disconnect your gas or electricity if they are your utility provider. A notice must be sent before disconnection;
- disconnect your phone if they are your service provider. A notice must be sent before disconnection;
- take you to court. You must be sent a summons or statement of claim and be given the opportunity to file a defence.
- Enforce the debt after court judgment. See court judgment.
- Act quickly and get legal advice
- If you believe you do not owe part or all of the debt, get legal advice
- Making a repayment arrangement can often stop the creditor taking any of the above actions
- External Dispute Resolution (if available) may help if the creditor will not agree to the payment plan you are offering
What should I do if?
I don't pay the debt
If you don’t pay, enforcement action may be taken against you.
Any court judgment made against you will be listed on your credit report for five years from the date of judgment.
In this situation, you can also apply for voluntary bankruptcy. If you’re considering this, please contact us on 1800 007 007 and speak with one of our financial counsellors.
I've already paid the debt
If a debt collector contacts you about a debt that you’ve already paid in full, explain the situation in writing and include copies of any records you have that prove the debt has been settled.
I receive a letter of demand
A letter of demand comes from your creditor or debt collector and usually warns that if you don’t pay the debt within a certain time period they’ll sue you in court. Although letters of demand aren’t court documents, they are often the last letter a creditor will send you before suing you.
I've experienced harassment
In some circumstances, you can claim financial loss (such as lost wages) or non-financial loss (such as distress, humiliation, stress and inconvenience) if a creditor or debt collector engages in unlawful debt collection practices.
You can seek compensation:
- By lodging a dispute in external dispute resolution if the debt collector or creditor is a member of an External Dispute Resolution (EDR) scheme. Refer to Dispute resolution.
- In a court or tribunal.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
WHAT DEBT COLLECTORS CAN AND CAN’T DO
Debt collectors are only allowed to phone or meet you face-to-face between 7:30am and 9pm on weekdays, and 9am to 9pm on weekends.
Debt collectors are only allowed to phone or meet you face to face between 7:30am and 9pm on weekdays, and 9am to 9pm on weekends.
They can only visit your home (or another agreed location) as a last resort when other methods of contact have failed.
Providing they do so lawfully, creditors and debt collectors can:
- write to you or ring you and demand payment
- make arrangements for repayment
- find out why an agreed repayment plan has not been met
- review a repayment plan after an agreed period of time
- inspect or recover mortgaged goods (if they have a right to do so)
- take you to court to recover their money if they follow the correct procedures
- get an order from a court to take some of your property
- sell the debt to a debt collection company, which has the same power to enforce the debt as the original creditor
Creditors and debt collectors can’t:
- have you sent to prison
- take or sell any of your property that they don’t hold security over, unless they have an order from the court
- tell you to access your superannuation or get a loan to pay the debt
- demand a lump sum payment from you before considering a repayment arrangement.
- act in a way that is misleading or deceptive
- reveal information about your financial situation to others
- contact you by email, phone or letter more than three times a week
- threaten, physically intimidate, or harass you
If you feel you’re being harassed, please call us on 1800 007 007 and speak to one of our financial counsellors.
Debt collection guideline for collectors & creditors
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) have jointly produced this guideline to assist creditors, collectors and debtors understand their rights and obligations, and ensure that debt collection activity is undertaken in a way that is consistent with consumer protection laws.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
You have a right to complain to Government regulators ASIC (for debts relating to financial services) or ACCC (for debts in relation to other products and services).
You can complain to:
- Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) for debts relating to loans or financial services (for example, credit contracts and insurance)
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for debts you owe in relation to products or other services you have bought.
Some State and Territory governments also regulate debt collectors. Links to further information appears below. If you want to make a complaint contact your consumer affairs or fair trading office in your State or Territory.
- NSW – Licencing of debt collectors
- NT – Commercial and private agents
- QLD – Licencing of debt collectors
- TAS – Building and Consumer Regulator
- WA – Debt collector restrictions
- VIC – Debt collector licensing
There are two main benefits of complaining to a regulator:
- It can help the regulator take action to stop unfair practices and lead to improved behaviour by debt collectors and creditors in the future
- If you send a copy of your complaint to the creditor (or debt collector) it sometimes encourages them to resolve your complaint.