Know your rights

Dealing with debt can be very stressful. The good news is that there are extensive laws in Australia which protect you as a consumer and can help you if you are in financial hardship. This page provides an overview of your key rights and protections.

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If you’re experiencing financial hardship and struggling to pay off debt, it is important to understand what your rights are. Knowing your rights can help you when you are talking with your creditors and looking at how best to resolve your debt problems.

This page has information about the key rights you have in some common debt situations such as fines, personal credit cards and loans, debt collection, utility bills, telco bills and payday loans.

As you browse through the pages on this website, you will see ‘Know Your Rights’ sections at the bottom of some pages. These tell you more about your rights in specific debt situations.

While you have rights, be aware that your creditors also have rights under the law. These rights allow your creditor to pursue you for money you owe them. Read more about creditors’ rights on the Debt collection page.

If your debt situation is complex, or you are feeling overwhelmed, call us on 1800 007 007 to speak to a financial counsellor.

If you would prefer to chat to a financial counsellor online, you can use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen.

Know your rights

You cannot be sent to prison because you cannot or do not pay a debt (except for fines because they are penalties).


You may be tempted to ignore fines in favour of other pressing bills and debts, like your mortgage. But fines are different to other debts because they are penalties imposed by the government for breaking the law. The consequences of not paying them can be serious, like the loss of your drivers’ licence or even imprisonment.

For more information see the Fines page.

Credit Law

The Credit Law applies to credit cards, loans and leases for personal purposes. It also applies to finance and mortgage brokers. Some of the important rights you have under the Credit Law are:

  1. Access to fair, timely and effective internal dispute resolution from your creditor
  2. Having a dispute about your loan decided in free external dispute resolution if you are unable to resolve it with your creditor
  3. A right to request financial hardship and have the decision reviewed and decided in external dispute resolution
  4. At least 30 days to fix a default on your loan
  5. Being given information about the terms of your loan and access to copies of loan documents and account statements on request
  6. That the credit you are provided you with is “not unsuitable”. This means that the loan is affordable and it meets your needs.

For more information see any of our following pages:

Personal loans

Payday loans

The Credit Law also applies to payday loans.

Payday (short-term, or fast) lenders must not:

  1. Provide you with an ‘unsuitable’ loan (i.e. one you can’t afford to pay and/or doesn’t meet your needs)
  2. Take security for the loan
  3. Charge an amount above the interest/fees cap

You can also access free external dispute resolution.

For more information see our payday loans page.

Debt Collection

The Australian Consumer Law and the ASIC Act requires that you’re treated in a fair and reasonable way when you owe a debt.

The ACCC/ASIC Debt Collection Guideline is a practical guide to the legislation by the regulators on what can and can’t be done by creditors or debt collectors when collecting a debt. It covers your rights to:

  1. Be treated fairly and not be harassed or coerced
  2. Make reasonable repayment arrangements
  3. Only be contacted at reasonable times and not too often

For more information see our Debt Collection page.


You have the right to:

  • Apply for and not be refused a reasonable repayment arrangement if you’re struggling to pay your bills
  • Notice before disconnection
  • Access to free external dispute resolution(in most cases)

For more information see our Electricity Gas and Water Bills page.


If you tell your telco provider that you are in financial hardship and struggling to pay your bills, they must work with you and offer options to help meet your individual needs.

Some important rights you have with your telco provider are to:

  • Access to options aimed at reducing your usage costs.
  • Explore suitable payment arrangements or other forms of assistance to maintain your connectivity.
  • Apply for and receive a suitable hardship arrangement.
  • Assistance in making a hardship application if you require it.
  • In the event that you fail to meet your obligations under a financial hardship arrangement, your telco provider must discuss your payment options before taking any steps to disconnect your service. If disconnection is necessary, they must provide you with at least 10 working days’ notice before restricting, suspending, or disconnecting your service.
  • Not have your debt sent or sold to a debt collector while you are still in discussions or have applied for financial hardship assistance.
  • Access to free external dispute resolution if you are unable to reach an agreement with your telco provider or if they threaten to disconnect your service.

You also have the right to dispute your telco contract if, for example, it is unfair, you were misled by the salesperson, you were pressured or coerced into signing it, or you could never afford the payments without hardship.

For more information see our Phone and Internet Bills page.

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