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5 mins read

Fees for debt collection: How much does a debt collector cost?

Dealing with overdue payments is an unfortunate reality for many businesses, particularly in tough economic conditions. When efforts to collect debts internally prove ineffective, enlisting the services of a debt collector becomes a viable option. In this article, we will provide a general overview of debt collection, discuss the various fees involved, explore factors influencing the cost, examine the role of debt collection agencies, and address key questions related to debt collection fees in Australia.

What is debt collection?

Debt collection involves the process of pursuing and recovering unpaid debts on behalf of a creditor. Debt collectors are professional individuals or agencies specialising in this field. They serve as intermediaries between businesses and debtors, employing various methods to recover outstanding payments. A business may require the services of a debt collector when internal efforts to collect debts have proven unsuccessful or when it is more cost-effective to outsource the task.

What is a debt collector?

In a business-to-business context, a debt collector is a professional individual or agency that specialises in the collection of outstanding debts on behalf of one business (creditor) from another business (debtor). These debt collection agencies act as intermediaries, working to recover unpaid invoices or overdue payments that a debtor business owes to a creditor business.

Debt collectors in a business-to-business context are typically well-versed in commercial debt collection practices and have a deep understanding of relevant laws and regulations governing debt collection. They employ various strategies and techniques to locate debtors, communicate with them, negotiate repayment plans, and ultimately recover the outstanding amounts owed to their clients.

Debt collectors generally work with clients across different industries, ranging from small businesses to large corporations. They may offer tailored solutions based on the specific needs and circumstances of each client, such as customised communication strategies, legal support, or skip-tracing services to locate elusive debtors.

Engaging a debt collector allows the creditor business to focus on its core operations while delegating the complex and time-consuming task of debt recovery to experienced professionals. Debt collectors act as an extension of the creditor business, working diligently to collect unpaid debts and resolve outstanding financial obligations, ultimately helping businesses maintain financial stability and protect their bottom line.

Why might you end up dealing with a debt collector?

There are several reasons why a business, as a creditor, may end up dealing with a debt collector – obviously all related to outstanding payments from their customers:

  • Unpaid invoices: One of the primary reasons a business may require the services of a debt collector is when invoices or bills issued to clients or customers remain unpaid beyond the agreed-upon payment terms. Despite sending reminders and making efforts to collect the outstanding amount, the debtor business fails to make the payment.
  • Cashflow issues: When a business experiences cash flow challenges due to unpaid debts, it can disrupt its operations and hinder its ability to meet its own financial obligations. In such cases, the business may engage a debt collector to help recover the outstanding payments from its customers and improve its cash flow.
  • Non-responsive debtors: Sometimes, a business may encounter non-responsive or uncooperative debtors who fail to engage in communication or ignore payment requests. In such situations, a debt collector can intervene and employ specialised techniques to locate the debtor, establish contact, and negotiate repayment terms.
  • Time and resource constraints: Pursuing debt collection internally can be time-consuming and resource-intensive for businesses, especially if they lack the necessary expertise or dedicated staff to handle such tasks. Engaging a debt collector allows businesses to focus on their core operations while leaving the debt recovery process to professionals.
  • Legal compliance: Debt collection is subject to various laws and regulations, including consumer protection laws and debt collection guidelines. Businesses may choose to work with a debt collector to ensure that their debt collection efforts adhere to legal requirements, mitigating the risk of non-compliance and potential legal repercussions.
  • Specific expertise: Debt collectors specialise in the field of debt recovery, employing proven strategies and techniques to navigate challenging situations. Businesses may turn to debt collectors to leverage their expertise, negotiation skills, and understanding of debtor behaviour in order to maximise the chances of successful debt recovery.

What kinds of fees exist for a business in the process of debt collection?

When engaging a debt collector, businesses should be aware of the following fees:

  • Commission-based fees: The most common fee structure is commission-based, where the debt collector receives a percentage of the amount successfully collected. This percentage varies and may depend on factors such as the age of the debt, the total amount owed, and the complexity of the case.
  • Fixed fees: In some cases, debt collectors may charge fixed fees instead of or in addition to commission-based fees. These fixed fees are usually applied at specific stages of the collection process, such as initiating legal action or conducting skip tracing (locating debtors).
  • Legal fees: If legal action is necessary to recover the debt, businesses may incur additional costs, including court filing fees, legal representation fees, and other related expenses.
  • Miscellaneous fees: Debt collection agencies might charge additional fees for services such as credit reporting, providing regular progress reports, or conducting asset searches.

How much does debt collection usually cost a business?

The cost of debt collection can vary significantly based on several factors. Generally, debt collectors charge commission rates ranging from 10% to 50% of the amount collected. However, it is important to note that these rates can vary based on factors such as:

  • Age of the debt: Older debts typically involve higher fees as they are considered more challenging to collect.
  • Debt amount: Debt collectors may apply different commission rates based on the size of the debt. Higher-value debts might incur lower commission rates.
  • Complexity of the case: If the debt collection process involves intricate legal procedures or requires additional investigative work, the cost is likely to increase.

Can debt be bought?

Yes, debt can be bought and sold in the form of debt portfolios. Debt buyers acquire delinquent debts from creditors or debt collection agencies at a discounted price. They assume the responsibility of collecting the debts and may employ their own collection methods. Debt buyers aim to profit by collecting more than the purchase price of the debts.

Can debt collectors charge interest?

In Australia, debt collectors cannot charge interest on top of the original debt amount unless it is specified in the initial contract between the creditor and debtor. However, debt collectors can add reasonable recovery costs to the debt, such as collection fees and legal fees.

Where should you go for more information about debt collection fees?

To obtain more information about debt collection fees, protections and related regulations, businesses can refer to authoritative sources such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) or consult legal professionals experienced in debt collection matters.

Avoiding the cost of debt collection

Tools such as CreditorWatch Collect help businesses avoid having to deal with a debt collector by increasing collections rates through automated reminder messages via email, SMS or phone. Our DebtorLogic tool allows you to see the payment behaviour of your customers, so if they are paying other suppliers late or not at all, you can take steps to manage your risk. Monitoring and alerts sends you messages in real-time 24/7 if any customers engage in adverse payment activity.

Get in touch today to hear how CreditorWatch can help your business better manage credit risk exposure without breaking the bank. Or try our 14-day free trial.

credit debt debt collection debt recovery debtor debtors finance
General Manager of Communication and Marketing
Mitchy is General Manager of Communications and Marketing at CreditorWatch. She is an expert communications specialist and with a special focus on media strategy to position businesses for maximum brand awareness and bottom line benefits, as well as positioning new and existing business leaders. From 2007 to April 2020 she was Head of Media & Corporate Communications for CoreLogic Australia & New Zealand and joined CreditorWatch in June 2020.
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