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Debt Collectors

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What is a debt collector?

A debt collector is a person who collects debts for a creditor such a phone company. Mostly, debt collectors work directly for the phone company, but sometimes debt collectors work for another company called a debt collection agency. Debt collectors will put pressure on you to pay your bills. However, there are legal limits on this pressure.

Debt Collection Agencies are specialised companies who chase up unpaid bills and debts. Phone companies sometimes use them rather than chasing you up themselves.

An assignment of debt is where the person who you owe money to changes. Phone companies will often assign your debt to the debt collector. This does not mean that you do not the money, but rather that you need to pay the debt collector and not the phone company. If a phone company does assign your debt, they need to let you know in writing.

What will a debt collector normally do & how should I respond?

1. A debt collector will contact you and ask you for payment

A debt collector might contact you by:

- Calling your phone

- Sending you a letter to ask you for payment.

- Visiting your home or work if there is no other way to contact you

2. If you still don’t pay the bill, a debt collector can to take you to court

If this happens, it's important that you get legal advice as soon as possible.

3. What should I do if I am contacted by a debt collector?

  • You could talk to someone about it, and get some financial advice.
  • Financial counsellors help people who have difficulty paying their bills.
  • There are financial counsellors in every state and territory who provide a free, independent, and confidential service. For contact details of a financial counsellor near you, see our useful links page. 
  • If you think that the debt collector is wrong, and you do not owe the amount that the debt collector says that you owe, then you have a right to challenge the amount of the debt. Ask the debt collector for all the account information to prove that you owe the debt. You must be provided with this information.
  • You can contact your phone company to see what options are open to you.
    • If you can’t afford to pay the debt, you should be able to talk with the phone company and arrange with them to pay your debt off slowly over a few months. Your phone company may be flexible and  decide to:

a. Give you more time to pay, or

b. Ask you to pay off the debt in small amounts over a longer period of time

c. Ask you to pay only part of your debt

Whatever you decide, do not get pushed into making promises that you won’t be able to keep, such as agreeing to paying off the debt in a way that you cannot afford.


Last reviewed June 2013.