Debt collection rules

  • A debt collector should only contact a debtor for a reasonable purpose and only when necessary.
  • Certain behaviour by debt collectors is illegal, including physical force, coercion or harassment.

What the ACCC does

  • We accept reports and enquiries about debt collectors.
  • We review reports from the public and take action if we identify concerning behaviour.
  • We educate consumers and businesses on their rights and responsibilities.

What the ACCC can’t do

  • We don’t get involved in individual debt disputes.

How debtors should be treated

People who owe money are commonly referred to as debtors. Debtors, and others connected to a debt, should be treated with fairness, respect and courtesy.

A debt collector should only contact a debtor for a reasonable purpose and only when necessary.

Watch the video for information about what debt collectors can and can't do.

Case study video

The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this video are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.

Illegal behaviour and debt collection

Under Australian law, a debt collector must not:

  • use physical force
  • use coercion
  • unduly harass or hassle the debtor
  • mislead or deceive the debtor
  • take unfair advantage of any vulnerability, disability or similar affecting a debtor. This can amount to unconscionable conduct.

These laws also apply when contacting anyone connected to a debtor. This includes a spouse, partner or family member.

Report assault or threats of violence to the police.

Debt collectors must protect the personal information of debtors and third parties. Contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner if a debt collector or creditor has broken privacy laws.

When and how a debtor can be contacted

Acceptable reasons for contacting a debtor

There are situations where contacting a debtor may be reasonable.

  • Giving information about the account and money owed
  • Making a demand for payment
  • Accurately explaining the consequences of non-payment, such as legal remedies the debt collector or creditor can seek, or service restrictions that may apply, such as disconnection of a service
  • Arranging for repayment of a debt
  • Suggesting a payment plan
  • Reviewing existing payment plans after an agreed period
  • Finding out why the debtor has not responded to contact
  • Asking why an agreed repayment arrangement is not being followed
  • Investigating if the debtor has changed their address without informing the debt collector, when there are grounds for believing this has occurred
  • Sighting, inspecting or recovering a security interest, such as a vehicle.

Contact with a debtor should be limited to:

Type of contact Days Times

Contact by telephone

Maximum 3 phone calls a week or 10 a month

Monday to Friday

Weekends

National public holidays

7:30 am to 9 pm

9 am to 9 pm

No contact recommended

Face-to-face contact

Monday to Friday

Weekends

National public holidays

7:30 am to 9 pm

9 am to 9 pm

No contact recommended

All workplace contact Debtor's normal working hours if known, or 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays  

Visits to a debtor’s home, or another agreed location, should be a last resort. The debtor can also ask for, or agree to, a visit.

If repayment plans can be worked out over the phone or in writing, face-to-face contact should not be needed.

Improving debt collection compliance

We review reports from consumers and small business and take action when we identify concerning practices.

The joint ACCC/ASIC Debt collection guideline for collectors and creditors includes information about debt collection best practices.

See also

Dealing with debt collectors: your rights and responsibilities

Disputing a debt

Help when you're in debt

Report debt collector misconduct to the ACCC

You can report debt collectors to the ACCC if they are:

  • doing something they shouldn’t do
  • harassing or intimidating a debtor
  • misleading a debtor.

We use reports from the public to inform our enforcement work. We don’t resolve individual disputes about debt collectors.

Make a report to the ACCC