Help when you're in debt

  • There are several free services that can help you if you’re struggling with debt.
  • Laws are in place to protect you from being treated unfairly by debt collectors.

What the ACCC does

  • We help consumers and businesses understand their rights and responsibilities.
  • We investigate businesses where they might be breaking the law.

What the ACCC can't do

  • We don’t provide financial advice or counselling.

Dealing with debt collectors

If you owe money, debt collectors generally have a right to seek repayment. There are laws in place to protect you from being treated unfairly by debt collectors.

Watch the video on how to deal with debt collection to:

  • check your rights when dealing with debt collectors
  • find out where you can get help with debts.

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.

You can also find out more about what debt collectors can and can't do.

Speak to the National Debt Helpline

Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. Their professional financial counsellors provide free and confidential advice. The helpline is open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday.

You can also visit the National Debt Helpline website. It has step-by-step guides explaining how to fix common debt problems. For example, what to do if you can’t pay your:

  • energy bills
  • internet or phone bills
  • mortgage
  • credit cards, or
  • payday loans.

Getting advice on consolidating debt

Be cautious of debt consolidators who charge fees or get commission for their services. You can often get the same help for free.

ASIC's MoneySmart website provides information about managing debt. This includes how to:

Using a dispute resolution scheme

Many industries have their own ombudsmen dispute resolution schemes. Industries include:

  • banking
  • telecommunications
  • energy
  • water
  • insurance.

If you complain directly to a business about a debt, but it doesn’t resolve your issue, then a dispute resolution scheme may be able to help you.

Legal proceedings against you usually can’t be started while a matter is with an ombudsman.

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is the dispute resolution scheme for financial complaints. You can contact AFCA if you are having a problem with debts relating to credit, finance or loans.

You can contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman if you have a complaint about a phone or internet debt.

You can contact energy ombudsman schemes if you have a complaint about an energy debt. They are different in each state and territory—the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has a list.

Bankruptcy

For some people in debt crisis, bankruptcy may be a last resort. Bankruptcy can have serious outcomes.

Before filing for bankruptcy, it’s very important that you get financial advice. You can get advice from a free and independent financial counsellor or a qualified financial adviser.

You can get more information about personal bankruptcy from the MoneySmart website.

See also

Dealing with debt collectors – your rights and responsibilities

What debt collectors can and can't do

Disputing a debt