Edwina Crawford, a single mother of four is seeking legal action against a debt collection agency for repeated harassment.
Panthera, the debt collection firm at the centre of the lawsuit bought Ms Crawford’s original debt from AGL and now claims she owes them around $5000.
According to Ms Crawford, the debt collectors allegedly tried to harass the money out of her in a phone call in June 2014, threatening to take her car and furniture, contact Centrelink to access her payments, and even telling her she would go to jail, she says.
Ms Crawford says Panthera called her 10 times in a fortnight; her lawsuit claims the level of harassment she received from them is illegal.
Panthera denies all the allegations. “We are very aware that the law prohibits us from harassing customers, engaging in threatening behaviour, garnisheeing Centrelink benefits or seizing household goods. We have a number of safeguards in place to ensure this conduct does not occur,” a spokeswoman said.
Licensed debt collectors are actually very tightly regulated and bound by an industry code of practice so it’s worth being aware of what debt collectors can and can’t do. Some of the key regulations include the hours that debt collectors are allowed to contact you on the phone – between 7.30am and 9pm (9am-9pm on weekends) and no more than three times a week or up to 10 times a month.
Financial and Consumer Rights Council’s executive officer, Peter Gartlan says there are still small debt shops that act like cowboys, but observers say overall Australia’s debt collection services industry has done much to clean up its act in the past five years.