- We recommend that personal or ‘field’ visits generally be considered as an option of last resort. Generally, face-to-face contact should only be made if reasonable attempts to contact a debtor by other less intrusive means such as phone calls, emails or letters have failed, and face-to-face contact is considered appropriate and necessary.
- In most cases, the debtor’s home will be the appropriate place to contact a debtor, with contact by letter or telephone generally being the most appropriate mode of contact.15 However, if a debtor provides a telephone contact number (including mobile phone) as the means of contact, contact using that number will be appropriate whatever the debtor’s location.
- Debtors and third parties are entitled to be free from excessive communications from collectors.13 Communications must always be for a reasonable purpose, and should only occur to the extent necessary: see part 2, section 2, Contact for a reasonable purpose only. The guidance on frequency of communications should be read subject to this general principle.
- Contact with a debtor or a third party must be made at reasonable hours, taking into account their circumstances and reasonable wishes. The following can be assumed to be appropriate contact times, subject to the qualifications set out:
Reasonable contact times
- ‘Contact’ with the debtor or other person is interpreted widely. It includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Communications by phone—including circumstances where the recipient (debtor or other person) elects to terminate the call, or where a voice message is left on a recording device, or where a message of any kind is delivered to the recipient (for example, text message).
- Communications with the debtor must always be for a reasonable purpose, and should only occur to the extent necessary.6
- It may be necessary and reasonable for you to contact a debtor to:
- provide information to the debtor about their account
- make a demand for payment
- offer to work with the debtor to reach a flexible repayment arrangement
- Under the privacy laws, you have obligations to protect the privacy of debtors.4 When making direct contact, your first task must always be to ensure the person you are dealing with is the debtor. This must be done every time you make contact before you divulge any information about the debt, the process for its recovery or before providing any other confidential information.
If you are involved in collection activity, either as a creditor, agent or assignee, this part of the guideline is addressed directly to you. The term ‘debtor’ includes an alleged debtor, and the term ‘debt’ includes an alleged debt. The term ‘debt collector’ includes creditors, independent collection agencies, collections departments within businesses, debt purchasers, assignees, agents, lawyers, government bodies engaged in trade or commerce, and other persons 3 collecting on behalf of others.
The need for collection activity will be greatly reduced when debtors act promptly and responsibly, and collectors are flexible, fair and realistic. Debtors may default on their debts because of circumstances beyond their control, such as unemployment, illness or family breakdown. While there are cases of fraud and deliberate evasion, most people are honest and want to meet their commitments if given a reasonable opportunity to do so.