I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs a question about debt collectors.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: It has come to my attention that Accounts Control Management Services, a Sydney-based debt collection agency, has undertaken activities against South Australian consumers which one could only describe as questionable, including trying to recover Telstra account funds from the mother of a deceased person and, also, taking over a National Australia Bank account which had been paid out four years earlier. My questions are:
1. How many complaints does the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs receive every year in relation to all debt collectors?
2. Is the minister aware of the company Accounts Control Management Services?
3. What actions does the office take to ensure that consumers are aware of their rights and that they are not being illegally pursued and harassed by these companies?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy) (14:44): I am not aware of this particular example. It is not been brought to my attention, but I am happy to follow up the matter in order to determine the issues involved in it. In terms of the specific data on debt collections, I do not have the figures broken down for that, either, so I am happy to take those questions on notice and bring back a response.
Thursday 5 March 2009
In reply to the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (25 November 2008).
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy):
1. In 2007-08 the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs (OCBA) received five complaints concerning debt collectors. Similar low numbers have also been recorded in the past few years.
3. OCBA has a variety of publications and information on its website that explores both consumer and trader's rights and obligations under consumer law.
The Fair Trading Act 1987 (the Act), that is under my administration provides penalties for debt collectors or their agents who engage in conduct that is contrary to the provisions under the Act. Such misconduct could include harassment for payment of a debt that is not owed or even where a debt collector falsely represents that criminal or other proceedings will apply for non payment of a debt.