Collection agencies: your rights and remedies
May 31 2017
What you'll learn
- What is a collection agency?
- What can you do?
Be it because of a financial rough patch, a mistake or an oversight, you may one day have to deal with a collection agency.
The Office de la protection du consommateur defines them as: “Collection agencies are a middleman. They are a business whom a creditor has entrusted to recoup an amount of money they claim they are owed. This creditor can be, namely, a financial institution or a business.”
It is therefore important to distinguish them from the internal collections service of a business to whom you owe money. Clearly, it is better to resolve the situation before it makes its way to an agency. Incidentally, you should read our article for tips on how to get out of debt if it applies to your situation.
Rules collection agencies must follow
The government has put measures in place to oversee the operations of collection agencies.
If a debt collector breaches the law, you have 3 years to bring them before the court.
Collection agencies communications
- The first communication must be in writing, and they can only call you five days after sending it.
- On the phone, debt collectors must identify themselves and mention their employer’s name and permit number. You can validate the agency’s permit at this address.
- They must tell you which creditor they represent and the amount you owe.
- Under no circumstances can the agency claim amounts beyond the debt you’ve incurred. If they attempt to do so, file a complaint with the OPC.
- If it applies, you have the right to request that they contact you through your legal representative.
- You can request that they only contact you in writing. To do so, you must submit a request, which will be valid for three months.
- They can only reach you at work if it has been impossible to contact you otherwise. Obviously, if you allow them to call you at work, the agency may do so again in the future.
- The same rule applies for contacting friends and family.
- If you guaranteed an unpaid loan, the collection agency can contact you.
- Calls must take place between 8 am and 8 pm, from Monday to Saturday. It is illegal for them to call you on civil holidays.
- If they have the wrong person, you simply have to inform the debt collector and they will no longer be allowed to contact you.
- Highly aggressive demeanours, bullying and harassment are illegal. You cannot be threatened with legal proceedings. In Canada, having an unpaid debt is not a crime either.
- A receipt for each payment must be issued in the 10 days that follow.
- If an agreement has been reached and your reimbursement is considered final, a final release letter must be issued.
- Request your credit report to ensure the information has been sent to the credit agencies. While you’re at it, read our article to find out more about credit reports and how to improve your credit rating.
In any case, it’s important to keep calm and not get overwhelmed by emotion. Know your rights and demand they be enforced. However, if you are in debt, it’s better to deal with the situation rather than let it drag on. If you are proactive on the matter, it could work out to your advantage.
- “They are a business whom a creditor has entrusted to recoup an amount of money they claim they are owed.”
- If a debt collector breaches the law, you have 3 years to bring them before the court.