ARE YOU BEING HARASSED?
Most creditors utilize the services of collection agencies for delinquent accounts.
What is a collection agency? Who hires them?
Collection agencies are used as a last resort by creditors to collect money that is owing. For example, if you get behind in paying your bills, the people you owe money to might hire a collection agency. The collection agency earns a commission by getting you to pay the money you owe.
Collection agencies have to be licensed. As well, there are rules they must follow. If they do not follow these rules they could lose their license, be put in jail, or be fined up to $25,000.
What are the rules for collection agencies?
There are rules about how collection agencies must act when they contact you. They must:
- always say who they are and use the agency's proper, registered name
- try to let you know in writing explaining who they are and who hired them to collect the money you owe
- make sure you are the person who owes the money
Are there things a collection agency cannot do?
There are rules about what a collection agency cannot do. They cannot:
- make you pay more money than you owe
- charge you for their services
- take you to court without being told to do so by the person you owe money to
- take you to court without warning you ahead of time
Can they phone me?
Yes, collection agencies can phone you. But there are rules they must follow. They cannot:
- make phone calls or send telegrams that you will have to pay for
- call on a statutory holiday
- call before 7 in the morning or after 9 at night
- call more than 3 times in a 7 day period (including voice mail messages)
- say things when they call that are harassing you or your family
Each time they phone you they must say who they are, how much you owe, and who you owe the money to.
Can they phone people I know?
It is against the law for a collection agency to give out any misleading or false information about you that may hurt you or your family. They are not allowed to do this either on purpose or by accident.
A collection agency can only contact your relatives, friends, or employer in order to get your address and telephone number. The only time they can ask for more information is if:
- the person they are calling guaranteed your debt
- they are checking your employment
- your wages have been assigned or garnisheed
What can I do if the collection agency is breaking the law?
If you are being harassed by a collection agency, there are several things you can do.
- Contact the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services. Their phone number is in the blue pages of your phone book. Ask them to send you a complaint form or download it from their web site at www.cbs.gov.on.ca
- Contact the police and charge the collection agency with an offence. They can be charged with things like:
·extortion or threatening,
·making harassing phone calls
- Contact the Sudbury Community Legal Clinic at 705-674-3200. Community legal clinics help low-income people who need the assistance of a lawyer
- Contact the Marketplace Standards and Services Branch at 1-800-268-9768
- Go to the Community Legal Education Ontario web site at www.cleo.on.ca for more information about collection agencies and the rules that govern them