This website is for use by legal professionals (lawyers and law practices) only. If the information is used incorrectly, you could risk losing money or your legal rights. If you are a member of the public looking for free advice about your legal problems please visit, or contact our Legal Help advice line on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. 

If you decide to use or rely on the information or make decisions based on the information in this website (which VLA does not recommend) VLA is not liable to you or any third party in any way for any loss, damage, costs or expenses you or they may suffer or incur as a result.

Complaints and dispute resolution

Information for prisoners about debt collection practices.

There are limits on the way that debt collectors can behave when they are trying to recover money from someone.

See Debt collectors.

Getting assistance from the Australian Financial Complaints Authority

If the debt relates to a credit provider or other financial service, the client may be able to make a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority. (All registered financial services have to be members of this service.) Their services are free.

Financial services include finance brokers, non-bank lenders, credit unions, building societies, debt collection firms and financial planners.

Before the authority will consider a complaint, they will give the creditor an opportunity to try to resolve the matter first. The service provider has 45 days to do this, or 21 days if the person is applying under financial hardship grounds.

In some circumstances, the financial complaints authority will accept complaints even after court proceedings have started. If this happens, the court proceeding will be stayed (placed on hold) to enable the client to try to resolve the issue without judgment being entered and costs being awarded.

If the client wants more information about this, they can contact one of the services outlined above or the Consumer Action Law Centre.

See AFCA—Make a complaint(opens in a new window) and Consumer Action Law Centre—Legal Help(opens in a new window).

Debt collectors

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Security and Investments Commission have developed a guideline relating to the conduct of debt collectors (ASIC RG96).

ASIC RG96 imposes various restrictions on debt collectors in relation to:

  • the representations they may make
  • the nature and frequency of the contact they may make with the client
  • their obligation to deal with a debtor’s legal representative.

If the debt collector has made a significant breach of these obligations, this might provide good leverage to negotiate with the creditor.

Some debt collectors suggest that the debtor has to pay legal costs, even before proceedings have been issued. This is misleading or deceptive conduct prohibited by State and Commonwealth law. Additionally, if a lawyer acts like this in the role of a debt collector, they could be the subject of a professional complaint to the Legal Services Commissioner.

See ASIC—Debt collection(opens in a new window) and LawHub topic Debt collectors.

More information


Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012 (Vic)

  • s. 183—what is a small claim?
  • s. 187—exclusion of other jurisdiction
  • s. 188—more appropriate forum
  • s. 189—small claim commenced at court
  • s. 109—functions of the director

See Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012 (Vic)(opens in a new window).


Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA)

This service can help to resolve disputes between consumers and financial service providers. This service is free to consumers.

See AFCA—Make a complaint(opens in a new window)

See also Australian Financial Complaints Authority—Rules and guidelines(opens in a new window).

Consumer Action Law Centre

This specialist community legal centre can assist the client with debt problems.

See Consumer Action Law Centre—Legal Help(opens in a new window).


The ASIC site has information about the responsibilities of debt collectors for consumers and also for businesses. There is a link to the Regulation guideline for debt collectors at the foot of the 'debt collection' page.

See ASIC—Debt collection(opens in a new window).