Collection Agencies and Consumer Protections
Helping People Overcome Debt since 1952
Collection agency calls can be stressful and anxiety-inducing, especially when you’re not sure what your rights are and what rules these companies are required to abide by. Collection agencies are well-known for their pushy tactics and, unfortunately, in today’s day and age, it can be difficult to determine just how legitimate the caller is. We believe that consumer knowledge is power so we’ve compiled the most important information that you need to know when it comes to collection calls and what happens if you fail to pay off your debts.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
First, know that collection agencies cannot harass you. Their conduct is strictly regulated by Ontario laws.
If you haven't been making payments, collectors may contact you to try and settle the matter. There are two ways to make the calls stop: pay what you owe, or, negotiate a payment plan.
If you don't owe money, call the agency and explain that you're not the person they're looking for. If they keep calling you, then it's time to file a complaint.
WHEN THEY CAN CONTACT YOU
Collection agencies are only allowed to contact you on Sundays between 1pm and 5pm, and Mondays through Saturdays between 7am and 9pm, your local time.
Please note that they cannot contact you more than 3 times in 7 days unless you have given them permission to do so.
WHEN THEY CAN CONTACT OTHER PEOPLE
Debt Collectors can call your spouse or a family member, a relative, neighbour, or friend if that person guaranteed to pay your debt. They can also reach out to them if they're simply trying to confirm your contact information or if you've given them permission to do so. These agencies are allowed to do a credit search and register your debt on your credit report.
WHEN THEY CAN CONTACT YOUR EMPLOYER
Under certain circumstances, collection agencies may also contact your employer.
This can happen if:
The employer guaranteed your debt.
The agency needs to confirm your employment status.
The debt collector is executing a court order.
You've given them permission.
How Collection Agencies Are Allowed to Contact You
Initial contact has to be established through a private letter or email, which must include:
How much you owe and the product or service that put you in debt
Business or individual you owe money to
The original amount owed on the first day due and, if applicable, what you owe now
A notification that a breakdown of the amount owed will be provided to you upon request
Name of the agency and of the collector
Proof the agency is registered in Ontario (e.g. registration number)
Full contact information for the agency
A disclosure statement, which outlines your rights as well as the actions you can take if you believe the agency broke the law
What Collection Agencies Cannot Do
A collection agency is not permitted and cannot:
Charge you fees
Contact you on a statutory holiday
Try to intimidate you with threatening, coercive or profane language
Contact you more than three times in seven days without your consent
Give false or misleading information about you or your situation to anyone, including employers
Recommend creditors take legal action without first notifying you of their intention to do so
IF YOU RECEIVE A LETTER
After the agency sends you this letter, they have to wait six calendar days before contacting you again. Note, however, that “contact” requires the agency to speak to you directly, leave a voicemail or send an email. If you don’t pick up, it doesn’t count as them contacting you, nor does a letter sent by regular mail.
FILE A COMPLAINT
If the company does any of these things, you can file a complaint. To do this, you must first send them a registered letter that includes the name of the agency and the way your rights were violated.
You should also indicate whether you’ve reached out to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, file a complaint with Consumer Protection Ontario.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T PAY?
Defaulting on a large loan such as a mortgage will often prompt the lender to contact you immediately. However, it’ll take many missed payments before a credit card company contacts you, even if they’ve been charging a late penalty.
Late fees will start accumulating interest, and then your interest rate will go up. If your bill goes unpaid for 180 days, your account will be put in “charge-off” status, which means you won’t have access to credit anymore. This goes on your credit report for seven years. However, at this point it’s likely that the credit card company will have sold your debt to a collection agency.
Once the agency calls you, you’ll have to pay the debt or work out a payment plan. Failing that, they may take you to court and you could face measures such as wage garnishment, which means that the debt collector will regularly take part of your pay cheque until the debt is paid.
Note that even if the seven-year period expires and you’ve managed to partially rebuild your credit, creditors can register your failure to pay on your credit report, tanking your score all over again.
GET DEBT HELP WITH D. & A. MACLEOD COMPANY LTD.
If your debt is getting out of hand and collectors are hounding you, it’s time to get help. A licensed insolvency trustee can provide credit counselling and help you assess your situation so you fully understand what your options are. Contact us today and one of our Licensed Insolvency Trustees will be happy to schedule an appointment with you and one of our convenient eight locations in Eastern Ontario, including Ottawa and Kingston.