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how the debt collection guidelines deal with emerging technologies and social media asic and accc guide to debt collection

Monday, September 15, 2014 - Posted by Philip Harvey

So just how does the ACCC and ASIC Guide to Debt Collection deal with new emerging ways of contacting debtors such as social media platforms?

In making contact with a debtor Section 1 of the guide to debt collection provides:

(e) If you elect to use emerging technology to attempt to or make contact with the debtor, you should carefully consider the particular channel and its potential audience. It may be acceptable to attempt contact via emerging technology provided:

  • you have a reasonable belief that contact will be with the debtor
  • you have a reasonable belief that the channel is not shared with other parties (for example, a shared work email address or joint social media account).

(f) You should avoid contacting the debtor via a certain channel (whether it is an emerging technology or a more traditional channel of communication) if:

  • the debtor has specifically requested to be contacted through an alternate channel of communication, or
  • the debtor specifically requested that this particular channel not be used.


Section 3 of the guide incorporates emerging technologies such as social media into contact;

(a) ‘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 in writing—including all written correspondence (for example, letter, email, text message, fax, social media application or program, instant chat, phone application, or any other similar device).
  • Communications in person—including face-to-face


Section 5 of the guide deals with emerging technology and frequency of contact

Telephone and other contacts (including letters, emails, text or telephone messages, social media channels)

 (e) Unnecessary or unreasonable contact by letter, email, SMS, telephone messages (whether left on a voicemail service, an answering machine or with a third party), or by the use of social media channels or other technology must also be avoided.

Example: Contact using social media
If you use social media such as Facebook to contact the debtor, then you must ensure such contact is not excessive and is always for a reasonable purpose; otherwise the contact may amount to undue harassment. You must also observe your privacy obligations when using such forums to make contact with the debtor.


Section 8 of the guide deals with privacy;

(f) Caution should be exercised when leaving messages for the debtor that may be seen or accessed by
third parties, for example....:

  • at no stage should contact be made by a debtor’s social media account that would compromise the debtor’s privacy, for example, placing a message for the debtor in a way that would allow anyone other than the debtor to view it.


Section 17 of the guide deals with conduct towards the debtor;

(b) You should never;

  • embarrass or shame a debtor—for example, by sending open correspondence to a shared post-box, posting messages for the debtor in a public online forum (for example, using social media sites), making the debtor’s employer or co-workers aware that the debtor is being pursued for a debt, or creating an impression that the debtor is under surveillance


In the glossary to the guide and within the definition of communication;

Communicate: unless otherwise specified, includes communication by telephone, mobile telephone, fax, email, letter, in writing via text message or online technology (such as social media channels), and in person.


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