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One year bankruptcy – debt collection is about to get even harder!

By Jeff Brown a Principal of Matthews Folbigg, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group.

Proposed amendments to the Bankruptcy Act 1966 which would reduce the duration of a typical bankruptcy from three years to one year have been drafted, and it is a matter of when – not if – the amendments will become law throughout Australia.

The reduction is partly to ensure that bankruptcy does not act as too much of a handbrake on the entrepreneurial spirit.  Business owners should be able to fail once, twice or even more, before succeeding.

That is all well and good, unless of course you are one of the unpaid creditors left in the wake of a failed business venture.

As all of us in business (including me) know, debt collection is difficult enough at present.  When a customer goes bad, one of the few methods to get yourself at the front of the creditors queue is to show that you would be willing to make the debtor bankrupt  if they will not pay.  In future, bankruptcy will be less of a practical burden on debtors, and there will probably be less stigma attached to having been a bankrupt person.
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The Clock is Ticking….

By Renee Smith a Solicitor of Matthews Folbigg, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group.

The time that is available to recover a debt from a debtor is not infinite. Each State and Territory in Australia has set limitation periods that restrict the time available to a creditor to recover a debt.

In relation to simple contract debts (which can include unsecured personal loans, personal guarantee claims, and credit card debts) all States and Territories (except the Northern Territory, where the period is 3 years), have a limitation period of 6 years from the date on which the ‘right of action’ accrued.  For Court judgments, all States and Territories (except Victoria, where the period is 15 years), have a limitation period of 12 years from the date of judgment to enforce that judgment.

After the limitation period expires, the debts are known as ‘statute-barred debts’. In all States and Territories, except New South Wales, ‘statute-barred debts’ will still be owing to the creditor, however legislation limits the enforcement options that are available. In New South Wales, once the limitation period has expired, the legislation (s63 of the Limitation Act 1969 (NSW)) specifically extinguishes the cause of action, in a sense erasing the debt, therefore giving no further options to creditors of enforcement.
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Paper, who needs paper?

By Renee Smith a Solicitor of Matthews Folbigg, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group.

In today’s society of evolving technology, contracts between parties can be whipped up in no time. However, what happens when an agreement between two parties is not formalised in writing and a debt is claimed by one party to another. Can the creditor still enforce the payment of the debt? If so, on what terms?

In the recent decision of Saravinovski v Duncombe [2017] NSWSC 1521, the Supreme Court was asked to overturn the decision of a local court magistrate who granted Mr Duncombe, a private investigator, judgment in respect of a debt for unpaid surveillance fees owed to him by Mr Saravinovski. While there was no formal contract signed, the parties had had many discussions regarding particular aspects of the services Mr Duncombe was to provide and which he subsequently delivered.

In particular, the Court was asked to find that it was a term of the contract that the costs would be capped at $10,000 (and not $20,000 as the creditor alleged) and that the results of the surveillance would be completed by 6 March 2015. The creditor argued there was no deadline on providing his results, although it was understood that his work was required to obtain evidence for a hearing commencing on 16 March 2015.
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Can you serve legal documents by Facebook?

By Andrew Behman, an Associate of Matthews Folbigg, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

Yes, it is possible to serve documents via Facebook. In an earlier blog “Serving debtors that don’t want to be found“, we discussed how legal documents can be served by substituted service. Service via Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram are some of the many methods legal documents can be served by substituted service.

In possibly a world first in 2008, the ACT Supreme Court granted orders for substituted service for the police to serve legal documents via a private message on Facebook. Since then, there have been many occasions in which the courts have allowed legal documents to be served via Facebook. You might even remember that in 2012, the District Court of NSW allowed for legal documents to be served on the rapper Flo Rida via his official Facebook page. Those orders for service via Facebook were ultimately overturned on appeal because, among other reasons, the evidence did not show that Facebook page through which the documents were served was actually the Facebook page of Flo Rida.
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Serving debtors who don’t want to be found

By Andrew Behman, an Associate of Matthews Folbigg, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

In an earlier blog “When is an old debt too old to collect“, we discussed how some of the more difficult to collect debts are often placed in the ‘too hard basket’. An all too common reason that these debts are in the ‘too hard basket’ is because you can’t find the debtor. They’ve moved address and you can’t find them to be able to serve them with legal documents. However, this is not the end!

Yes, the law usually requires that legal documents be served personally. This is to make sure the defendant actually receives the legal documents and knows about the legal proceedings against them.

However, the court rules allow for you to serve legal documents in other ways. This is known as “substituted service”. Legal documents served by substituted service are deemed to be served and will allow you to continue proceedings to recover your debt. Some examples include serving legal documents by email, or even by leaving them at the last known address of the debtor and sending them a text to let them know where the documents have been left. In the social media era the courts are also becoming more prepared to make substituted service orders involving use of social media such as Facebook.

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Debt Recovery from a Company that has ‘Ceased to Be’…

By Renee Smith a Solicitor of Matthews Folbigg, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group.

What sort of debt recovery procedure exists for companies that have been deregistered? From time to time Matthews Folbigg are asked to advise clients in relation to debt recovery and enforcement of debts against debtor companies who have been deregistered.

So what can be done for debt recovery against a deregistered company?

Under section 601AD the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (“the Act”), once a company is deregistered it ceases to exist as a legal entity. As Monty Python would put it, the company, far from pining for the Norwegian fjords, ‘is no more’, and ‘has ceased to be’. As a result, all of the company’s property vests in ASIC (or in the Commonwealth if held on trust – a not uncommon situation for trading trusts) and any legal proceedings cannot be commenced or continued.

Unlike the Norwegian Blue, however, it is possible to resurrect a company that has been deregistered, for the purpose of enforcing a claim. This is under section 601AH(2) of the Act by making an application to the Federal Court or the Supreme Court of NSW as “a person aggrieved” by the deregistration. It is also possible for ASIC to reinstate the company if satisfied the company should not have been deregistered however ASIC’s preference appears to be to leave these matters for the Court if possible.
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Proposed Changes to Credit Reporting Before Senate: Will it impact debt recovery?

By Bonnie McMahon an Associate of Matthews Folbigg, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

The Commonwealth government has introduced the National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Mandatory Comprehensive Credit Reporting) Bill 2018 (“the Bill“), which is currently before the Senate.

If passed, the Bill will require the four major banks (Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group) to supply their comprehensive credit information to credit reporting agencies, which will include information regarding customers that have been involved in a debt recovery process. The banks will also be required to keep the information they supply, accurate, complete and up to date, on all existing and new accounts.

How will the bill impact credit providers and debt recovery?

It is expected that these new credit reporting requirements will assist credit providers to make more informed assessments, when determining whether to approve credit applications. Further, it is anticipated that these reforms will assist credit providers to identify which applications may require future debt recovery, if approved.
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How to serve a statutory demand

By Andrew Behman, an Associate of Matthews Folbigg, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

In earlier articles, we highlighted the problems that arise when serving a Creditor’s Statutory Demand by post: see You’ve been served! and It Serves You Right?.

This issue reared its head again two weeks ago in winding up proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW in which we acted for the creditor. The Court was satisfied with all but one element of the evidence required to make the winding up order. The Court did not accept that the statutory demand had been properly posted (even though there was evidence of postage).

The statutory demand had been ‘posted’ by an Australia Post employee attending and collecting it from the office premises rather than the statutory demand being placed into a post box. The Court was not prepared to accept that the statutory demand had been posted because it was unfamiliar with this practice. The Court was more familiar with posting a statutory demand by placing the document into a post box or directly with an Australia Post outlet.
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