Originally aired on TV Program Market Place:
If you get too far behind in your payments on a bill, the creditor might turn your account over to a collection agency. Their job is to get as much money from you as they can. Some try gentle persuasion, some are blunt and forceful, and others will try to harass you, even using illegal methods. Here are some ways to deal with collection agencies and a synopsis of your rights under the law.
Collection Agencies often use abusive and illegal means to collect overdue accounts from debtors. They can get away with this because consumers are naive when it comes to the limits of a collection agent's power and their own rights.
Almost every type of organization uses collection agencies. The government, at all three levels, are perhaps the biggest users. For example, there are currently 130,000 defaulted student loans in the hands of collectors. Collection agencies act as an extension between the creditors and their debtors. Collectors in these agencies are usually paid a combination of salary and commission. According to a report done by Venture, each collector has a daily quota in dollars which they have to reach before they start taking a commission or bonus.
Regulations as to who can be an agent are very simple. In Ontario, an applicant must be 'financially responsible' and pass the 'honesty and integrity' test. According to the register for collection agencies, honesty is measured by ensuring the applicant completed the application process honestly. The measure of integrity is the lack of a criminal record. Financial responsibility means a collector can not be overly indebted. In addition, the applicants must write an exam and get a mark of at least 70 percent.
The Ontario Society of Collection Agents also has a Grievance and Ethics Committee which deals with public complaints. When a complaint comes in, a member of the committee will contact the agency in question and report back to the complainant. If he or she is still not satisfied, they are instructed to take the complaint to the Registrar. If the complaint is bona fide, the agent would lose his or her license.
Provincial laws and regulations are designed to protect consumers from debt collector harassment. This protection suggests that society is willing to give the debtor the benefit of the doubt and does not automatically view them as deadbeats. According to the executive director of the Ontario Society of Collection Agents, 97 percent of debtors sent to collection do intend to pay their bills. Only three percent are credit criminals. But, the image of the deadbeat is a collector's most valuable tool. He can use it to embarrass and shame a debtor into going to extreme lengths to pay off bills.
All provinces have legislation which regulates the licensing and activities of collection agencies and collectors. These regulations vary little from province to province. In general collectors cannot:
- try to collect a debt without first notifying the debtor in writing;
- initiate legal action without notifying the debtor in writing and receiving written permission from the creditor;
- make phone calls of such a nature or frequency to constitute harassment;
- call outside of restricted days and hours;
- imply or give false or misleading information;
- demand payment of a debt without giving the name of the creditor and the total amount owed;
- continue to demand payment after a person has claimed to be someone other than the debtor before the collector has tried every way to ensure he/she has the right person;
- contact a debtor's friends, relatives, employer or neighbours except to get a telephone number and address.
What to do about harassing phone calls from Collection Agencies?
DO NOT SPEAK TO THE VERMIN PHONING YOU. They are commission collection agents and have no authority to correct errors. These scum will interpret any conversation you have with them as encouragement to keep calling you. HANG UP WITHOUT SPEAKING AS SOON AS YOU REALIZE WHO IS CALLING.
First, use the Internet to locate the Collection Agencies web site and search there for their head office.
Warning: Large collection agencies using automated phone dialing to contact alleged debtors are especially offensive and CanLaw has received many complaints about them.
Complain to Corporate and Consumer Affairs
You can file a complaint with your provincial Corporate and Consumer Affairs office via the internet simply and easily. Just do a search for your local office, there are too many to list here.
Complain to Bell Canada Contact your phone company and file a complaint about harassing phone calls if appropriate.
Alliance One: Complaining to these vultures. TCH is now AllianceOne Ltd.
You can find them here on the net http://www.tch.ca/Home.aspx
Their contact info is shown as
1979 Leslie Street
Tel 1-877-447-8899, (416) 447-8899
Fax 1-888-466-9208, (416) 447-1397
For Payment, Account Status and general inquiries firstname.lastname@example.org
TCH is now AllianceOne Ltd. No doubt, they will now be using both names, something else to confuse us.
Total Credit Recovery: Complaining to these vultures.
Head Office, Ontario and USA
225 Yorkland Boulevard
Toronto, Ontario, M2J 4Y7
Tel: (416) 774-4000
Fax: (416) 774-4001
Accounts Recovery Corporation: Complaining to these vultures.
Phone: (250) 953-6900
Fax: (250) 953-6999
Toll Free: 1-888-769-9272
E-mail: General Inquiries
Client Relations - Ombudsman
Toll Free: 1-888-771-9111