The Collection Agencies Act and Your Rights
Debt problems are stressful enough on their own, but they become even more stressful when you have to deal with abusive and harassing collectors. From dodging constant collections calls to exaggerated threats of legal action and criminal prosecution, the stress of dealing with collectors can affect your health, your ability to focus on your job, and the peace in your household. Not only are these types of collections practices detrimental to your life, they may actually be outside of the law. Some collectors simply cross the line when trying to collect an outstanding balance on a debt. This makes it essential to know your rights when it comes to collections, so you can protect yourself from abusive practices.
If you’re currently dealing with collectors because of past-due credit card debts, we may be able to help. Enrolling in a debt management program means you have someone representing you with regard to your debts, so you can refer collectors to us and we can deal with them for you. This can provide peace of mind in addition to the debt relief you’ll get with the program. Contact Consolidated Credit today at 1-888-294-3130 to see if credit counselling and a debt management program are the right options for you. You can also get started online with a request for a Free Debt Analysis.
How the Collection Agencies Act Protects You
The following list outlines some of the practices that are prohibited under the Collection Agencies Act:
- Harassing language or treatment: Collectors are not allowed to converse with you in any way that may be perceived as harassment. This can range from using derogatory language in conversations to making excessive calls in a single day. A collector cannot curse at you, yell, or make threats that are not allowable within the boundaries of the law, such as threatening jail time for not paying your credit card bill.
- Inappropriate calling hours: A collector can only call you at certain times of the day. For example, they can’t call you in the middle of the night or in the wee hours of the morning. They are also limited to making calls Monday through Saturday. No collections calls can be made on Sundays or on any statutory holiday.
- Withholding information: The collector must also disclose the bank, lender or creditor that originally held the debt in question. They cannot withhold the name of the original debtor from you for any reason.
- Legal action without prior notification: A collector may not pursue legal action against you to collect on a debt without notifying you in writing first. This means a collector can’t take you to court to make you pay on a debt unless they first inform you of the intent to take that action.
- Contact with friends, family or co-workers: A collections agent can’t call your parents, siblings, other relatives, friends, neighbours, boss or co-workers in an effort to collect on your debt. They must deal directly with you. A relative or friend could only be contacted if he or she appears as a co-signer or co-borrower on the account.
Understanding Your Rights in Collections
It’s important to note that the collections process works in a certain way that is determined by the law. Some collectors try to make you think that they have more power over your life than they actually have in an attempt to get you to pay your debts. They may tell you they can have you thrown in jail. They may tell you they’ll take your home or repossess your car. They may tell you they can contact your boss to have you fired or have your wages garnished. They may even threaten to have your name published somewhere so you’re blacklisted from ever getting credit again.
None of the above things can actually happen. In order to repossess any property to satisfy an outstanding balance on a credit card debt, the collector would have to obtain a bankruptcy judgment against you. They can’t just send someone to repossess your property. They can’t contact your employer in any circumstances. They can’t publish blacklists barring you from credit; in fact, even negative remarks in your credit reports can only remain up to six years. Finally, you can’t be taken to jail for not paying a credit card back.
What to Do with Abusive Collectors
If a collector crosses the line in their contact with you and goes outside the law in an attempt to collect on a debt, you have recourse. Contact the local government office for your province or territory to file a complaint. Penalties for collections abuse vary by location, so the laws and consequences will be specific to your area. Also keep in mind that once you obtain representation, such as a bankruptcy attorney, consumer proposal administrator or a credit counsellor, the collectors can be directed to speak with that individual. They are not allowed to contact you directly once you have indicated you have these kinds of representation.