Debt collection guideline: for collectors and creditors

12. Consistent and appropriate correspondence

  1. Your correspondence—including automatically generated letters—should be consistent with both your records and your verbal communications with the debtor, and vice versa.
  2. Correspondence should reflect the repayment arrangements that you have made with the debtor.50 Such correspondence must not make inaccurate representations, including misrepresentations about:
    • the frequency of contact (for example stating that ‘numerous attempts have been made to contact you by telephone’ or ‘numerous previous letters have been sent’ if this is not the case)
    • liability or the amount owing (for example stating or implying that a debtor is liable for collection charges or fees, legal fees or charges that you are not legally entitled to claim)
    • demand payment for an amount that does not account for payments already made.
  3. It is not appropriate to send reminders or other correspondence about the consequences of non-payment (including automatically generated letters) when:
    • a temporary stay of action or enforcement has been granted
    • you have not provided the information you agreed to provide (whether or not liability for the debt has been disputed)
    • court or external dispute resolution proceedings regarding the debt have been commenced.51
  4. You should avoid communications with the debtor that may distort the true purpose of the communication or communicate an unwarranted sense of urgency or cause unwarranted stress or anxiety.

Example: Unwarranted sense of urgency

If you write a letter or other message to a debtor that does not identify the sender but states that the matter is urgent then you may lead a debtor to believe there may be some personal emergency that requires an immediate response.

50 See part 2, section 14, Repayment negotiations, and section 15, Contact when a payment arrangement is in place.

51 However, if judgment is subsequently obtained, further correspondence or other communication may be appropriate (for example, to outline alternatives to enforcement of the judgment debt through the courts). For a more general discussion of legal action and procedures, see part 2, section 21, Legal action and procedures.