Do you know what to do if a collection agency contacts you?Pascal Gagnon
Collection agencies can be intimidating. Incessant calls can become frustrating, stressful, and exhausting. Sometimes, agencies will even use questionable methods to put pressure on debtors.
Unfortunately, you may have to deal with them if you have outstanding debts. If this is the case, remember that you should not feel threatened.
There are steps you can take to make the process much less painful. This will let you return to your normal activities without fear of reprisals by collection agencies.
How collection agencies work
If you are receiving calls from collection agencies, it’s because you owe money to one or more creditors. Collection agencies have a mandate to recover what you owe to creditors.
In general, collection agencies work on commission. The more money they recover for their creditor clients, the more they are paid. So, of course, they are very keen to have you repay your debts. This is why they can be very insistent and contact you repeatedly, to the point of abuse.
- Rules dictate the acceptable conduct collection agencies must take with you. Here are some examples:
- They must send you a written notice before contacting you by telephone;
- They can contact your relatives only once if they do not have your address or phone number;
- They must respect the permitted time periods* in which they can contact you;
- They cannot threaten you or try to intimidate you;
- They are not allowed to charge you a fee.
* Prohibited time periods:
|Monday to Saturday, before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m.||Monday to Saturday, before 7 a.m. and after 9 p.m.|
|Sundays||Sundays before 1 p.m. or after 5 p.m.|
Your rights as a debtor
Having debts is not a crime and does not deprive you of your rights. By fully understanding your rights, you will be equipped to exercise a certain amount of control over collection agencies.
- Check that the agency is fully licensed;
- In Quebec, check with the Office de la protection du consommateur (in French only);
- In Ontario, ask the agency for it’s Ontario registration number.
- Request written information about your debt. This document must contain:
- The name of the creditor that is demanding the debt;
- The amount owed;
- The date and amount of each payment;
- The amount of your debt;
- The name of the collection agency;
- The date this information was provided to you.
- Request proof of your debt (bills, account statements);
- Challenge the debt demanded of you if it does not belong to you:
- the agency must stop collection actions;
- the court will establish whether you are responsible for the debt.
- Ask the agent to contact you only in writing (in Quebec).
Bad decisions and consequences
If you are contacted by a collection agency, the decisions you make will have an impact on the resolution of the situation.
Do not ignore attempts to contact you
Do not ignore contact attempts, whether by telephone or mail. Firstly, calls will not stop on their own if you do not answer. You will only be delaying the problem. Second, ignoring calls and letters may lead to legal proceedings against you.
Treat collection agents the same way you would like to be treated. Their job is by no means easy, and insulting them will not make them more sympathetic towards you. Adopt a respectful tone.
Do not accept an unsatisfactory payment agreement
Do not make any commitments with the collection agency if you know that you cannot keep them. An agreement that your budget cannot sustain will only cause more problems.
Imagine the consequences if you skip mortgage payments to honour the agreement with the agency. Your financial situation will become even worse.
Put an end to collection calls
A miracle solution to stop calls from collection agencies does not exist. Of course, the simplest way is to repay your debts. However, as we have just seen, it is not always possible to make a realistic agreement without compromising the primary needs of your family.
The second option is to meet with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT). The LIT can assess your financial situation and suggest various solutions. These include the consumer proposal and declaration of bankruptcy, which will stop collection actions. They also put an end to the accumulation of interest and protect you from garnishment of your pay.
Incessant calls from collection agencies are a major cause of stress. Fortunately, you can rely on professionals at Ginsberg Gingras to help you resolve your debts. The first consultation is free, without obligation, and in complete confidence.