Many people are intimidated by the “thought” that a collection agent may contact them directly about money that they owe and haven’t been able to repay. The anxiety is caused from a lack of knowledge – what can and can’t a collection agency do?
Very briefly, collection agencies are businesses that have been hired by someone you owe money in order to try and recover the debt. They are paid on a fee or commission basis. Unless some sort of mistake has been made (and mistakes are quite common) you are being contacted because you have fallen behind on your payments. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. In fact, with computerized phone dialers, ignoring the problem probably means they will call more often, not less.
The following comments apply to Ontario, but there are similar laws on the books in every province and territory in Canada – we’ve added some links at the bottom of this post to the laws where you live.
Before a collection agency starts calling you they are required to send you a letter (not an e-mail) that sets out the name of the company you owe money to, the amount that you owe and contact information about the collection agency. The collection agency is required to wait 6 days from the date of the letter before they attempt to contact you again.
Collection agencies may call you Monday to Saturday between the hours of 7 am and 9 pm, and on Sundays from 1 pm to 5 pm. They should not be calling you outside of those hours. They should not be calling on statutory holidays.
Collection agencies should not be calling your employer except once to confirm your employment. They should not be speaking to family and/or friends unless those people are jointly responsible for the debt.
Contact is limited to 3 times a week. It is only considered contact if you answer the phone and speak to them. That’s why the computerized phone dialers are legal – if you don’t answer the call it isn’t counted as a contact and the collection agency is permitted to call again (and again and again…) until they speak to you.
You may stop a collection agency by sending them a registered letter stating that you dispute the debt and instructing them to proceed to Court. Another option is to hire a lawyer and have them send a letter to the collection agency instructing them to communicate directly with your lawyer. Finally, if the collection agency is wrong – you aren’t the person they are looking for send them a registered letter explaining the mistake and advises them to cease and desist.
Here’s a link to the Government of Ontario’s website: Your Rights When Dealing With Collection Agencies
For information on rule in other provinces, visit the Office of Consumer Affairs website: Information on Collection Agencies Rules
If you are being harassed by debt collectors calling you because of outstanding bills and debts, it’s time to ask for help. Contact a local bankruptcy trustee today to talk about your options.