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Independent News For The Australian Public Service
Edition Number 418. Updated Tuesday, 15 July 2014

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New debt guide repays with interest

An updated version of the Debt Collection Guideline for Collectors and Creditors has been launched by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

The joint publication has been revised following extensive consultation with key industry and consumer representatives to provide enhanced guidance to anyone involved in debt collection.

It will further assist creditors, collectors and debtors to understand their rights and obligations and ensure that collection activity is undertaken in a way that is consistent with the important Commonwealth consumer protection laws that the ACCC and ASIC administer.

It provides practical guidance about when it is appropriate to contact a debtor, including what constitutes contact and reasonable contact hours, methods or frequency of contact and how the need for collection activity will be greatly reduced when debtors act promptly and responsibly, and collectors are flexible, fair and realistic.

ACCC updates popular resource

The Guideline also notes new communication technologies developed since the initial publication, including the use of social media platforms and auto dialers, and the potential pitfalls to avoid in using such technologies.

Deputy Chair of the ACCC, Delia Rickard said creditors and collectors had generally provided ongoing support for this guideline.

"However, on occasions some creditors and debt collectors go beyond what is reasonable and mislead, harass or act abusively towards debtors. This is unacceptable," Ms Rickard said.

"If businesses do not adhere to this guidance issued by the ACCC and ASIC, they risk breaching the law in relation to harassment and coercion, false and misleading representations or unconscionable conduct. These breaches can attract significant penalties."

Deputy Chair of ASIC, Peter Kell said it was critical that businesses engaging in debt collection were aware of their legal rights and obligations.

"Where there are instances of businesses disregarding these important consumer protection laws, we will take appropriate enforcement action,'' Mr Kell said.

"The guideline is designed to help businesses carry out their collection activities in a fair and measured way,"

The Guideline can be accessed at this PS News link.

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