WHEN THE COLLECTION CALLS COME
Demand letters and phone calls from collection agencies can add stress and anxiety on top of an already difficult situation. The simplest solution—paying the debt claimed in full immediately—might not be financially available to you. Ignoring the collectors will not make the debt go away and will only to lead to more aggressive action that could lead to court orders and legal costs against you, causing serious damage to your credit rating.
Fortunately, there are ways to stop or limit the collection calls and get back some peace of mind. Understanding the legal process collection agencies must follow to collect on a debt will allow you to stop harassing calls to you or others and begin a fair and reasonable resolution process.
How Can Collection Agencies Contact You?
In Ontario, a collection agency must first send you a written notice by regular mail (not e-mail) setting out the name of the creditor (business or person that claims you owe them money), the amount of money claimed, and the name of the collection agency and a statement that the creditor has asked it to collect the debt. Without that notice, which must include a mandatory disclosure form setting out your rights under the Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.
The agency must then wait six (6) days to contact you (actually speak with you, not just leave a message or an e-mail) and after that first contact, cannot contact you more than three times in seven days without your consent. The agency also can’t contact you outside certain periods: before 7:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, Sunday before 1:00 p.m. or after 5:00 p.m., or on holidays.
At no time can they use threatening, coercive, profane or intimidating language, or put undue, excessive or unreasonable pressure on you to pay.
Who Can’t They Contact?
Collection agencies can only contact your employer to get your employment information. They cannot contact your employer unless you give them written permission, the employer has guaranteed your debt, or the contact is about a court order or garnishment of your pay.
Collection agencies cannot contact your spouse, family members, relatives, neighbours or friends except to get your address and telephone number, unless they have guaranteed your debt or you have given the agencies written permission to contact them on your behalf. They also cannot contact you if you don’t owe the debt and are not the person they are looking for.
Agencies also must stop contacting you if you send a registered letter stating that you dispute the debt and intend to resolve the matter in court. They also cannot contact you if your lawyer or paralegal sends a letter informing them that they must contact them about their claim against you.
What If They Make Unauthorized Contact?
It’s a good idea to keep a record of all contacts from a collection agency, including dares and times of calls, letters, e-mails, or faxes. If any of their contacts were not legally authorized or were threatening, profane or harassing, a letter to the agency with supporting documentation may be enough to stop such contact.
If not, a complaint to the Ministry of Govenrment and Consumer Services, with supporting documentation, may trigger an investigation. Collection agencies can face significant fines or the revocation of their registration if they fail to comply.
The lawyers at Alemi Law Group can assist you with negotiating a resolution to your debts to avoid or limit financial damage and credit rating.
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