Debtors' rights

Debtors' rights

If you are in debt you have the right to be protected from illegal behaviour from creditors and debt collectors. You have the right to:

  • not be discriminated against
  • have your privacy protected
  • get help
  • question the debt.

The right to be treated fairly

You have the right not to be harassed or bullied when a creditor or debt collector contacts you. There are very strict guidelines on debt collector behaviour.

The right not to be discriminated against

Discrimination happens when you are treated unfairly because of something about you, for example, your race, age or disability. If you think you have been discriminated against, contact the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

The right to have your privacy protected

You have the right to privacy. The creditor can collect, store, use or give out information about you but they need to follow the rules set out in the Privacy Act. A creditor cannot contact anyone else about your debt unless they have your written permission.

If you think that your privacy has been violated, complain to the organisation that did it. You can also contact an ombudsman. For example, if it is an electricity company that breaches your privacy, then contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman. You can also contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

The right to get help

Financial counsellors and other services that deal with debt problems can help you. You may feel pressured to make a decision or to agree to something when a creditor or debt collector contacts you. You have a right to get financial or legal information and advice before signing or agreeing to anything. See Get help.

The right to question the debt

You can question the debt if you do not believe it is your debt, or if you think that the amount is wrong. You can find out for yourself if you are not sure what the creditor says is true.

Some of the reasons you may want to question a debt are if:

  • the debt is not yours – for example, if you think someone has fraudulently used your identity
  • you have already paid the debt or settled it in some way
  • you disagree with or are unsure about the amount being claimed
  • you have a valid defence (a legal reason) to not pay the debt.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with debt and financial issues.