How to Collect Debts through Facebook and Other Social Media Sites
Hi, my name is Adam Stewart, Debt Collection Expert and owner of Debt Recoveries Australia. In this week’s Better Credit Control blog, I am going to talk about contacting debtors through social media. Can you actually collect your debts using social media? Yes, of course!
We can collect debts through social media channels, so long as we follow the debt collection guidelines set out by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). They enforce the Commonwealth consumer protection laws, including laws relevant to debt collection.
The ACCC has a Guide to Debt Collection. In this guide, recently updated last year, it deals with new emerging ways of contacting debtors such as social media platforms. You can get a copy of the ACCC Debt Collection Guidelines.
Here are the relevant sections that deal specifically with contacting a debtor by social media:
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.
Given these guidelines and cautions in mind, it is possible to contact a debtor through social media in relation to debt. In fact, this may even be a less confrontational way of communicating with the debtor. Quite often, phone calls are made to debtors who are either at work or at home with their family or friends and don’t have time to speak on the phone. Communication through SMS (text messaging), email and social media is an increasingly easy and acceptable means of getting in touch and keeping in touch with the debtor, in order to achieve the best possible outcome for both parties.
More information can be found at www.debtrecoveries.com.au or call us on 1300 799 511.