A single mother of four was allegedly told she could lose her furniture, car and even wind up behind bars if she failed to pay up to debt collectors. Now, she is suing the firm she says repeatedly harassed her.
Edwina Crawford, who is on a Centrelink pension and has a history of mental health issues, says she broke down after collectors from Panthera called her up to 10 times within a fortnight.
“They said we can take whatever we want, even your car,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to do what they do.
“Now whenever I get a private number call or from a number I don’t know, I freak out again.”
Crawford’s original debt — amounting to less than $3000 — was bought by Panthera from AGL for an estimated 3 to 6 cents in the dollar.
They now claim she owes them around $5000 and, she says, repeatedly harangued her to get it.
Crawford, who suffers from anxiety and depression, alleges they even went so far as to threaten her Centrelink payments and would sometimes call early in the morning and late at night.
She is working with the Consumer Action Law Centre in Victoria’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal to bring the lawsuit against the company, asking for $10,000 to be paid in damages.
According to industry guidelines, it is illegal for debt collectors to call more than 10 times in a month and any more would constitute harassment.
It is also illegal for collectors to threaten to take clients possessions or garnish their incomes.
“Even if someone owes debt, they’re still a person,” the Consumer Action Law Centre’s Gerard Brody told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“They’ve still got families to feed and lights to turn on and they’re often our community’s most vulnerable people. The laws exist to ensure that even if you have debt, you are protected from harassment and still treated with basic dignity.”
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