If you find yourself in debt and are struggling to pay, there are a number of free services available that can help. Be cautious of debt consolidators who charge an up front fee or get commission for their services, when you could get the same help for free.
Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 for free and confidential advice from professional financial counsellors. The helpline is open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday.
You can also visit the National Debt Helpline website for step-by-step guides explaining how to fix common debt problems, such as what to do if you can’t pay your energy bills, internet or phone bills, mortgage, credit cards, or payday loans.
ASIC's MoneySmart website provides information managing debt, including details about how to:
- check your credit report to confirm the information is accurate and fix any mistakes
- find free financial counselling services in your state or territory
- find free legal advice services in your state or territory
- make a repayment plan if you're struggle to pay the debt.
Many industries (such as banking, telecommunications, energy, water and insurance) have their own ombudsmen dispute resolution schemes. Legal proceedings against you generally cannot be started while a matter is being considered by an ombudsman.
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) handles complaints about banking, credit, loans and debt collection, life insurance, superannuation, financial planning, insurance broking, stockbroking, investments, managed funds, timeshares, general insurance, finance and mortgage broking.
For some people in debt crisis, bankruptcy or a Bankruptcy Act agreement may be an option, although this has serious consequences.
If you are thinking about filing for bankruptcy, it’s very important that you get advice from a free and independent financial counsellor or a qualified financial adviser. You can also get information on personal bankruptcy from the Australian Financial Security Authority.