A collection agency is a business that obtains or arranges for payment of money owed to either a person or a company. When you have an account with a business that is “past due” or in default, the business may turn your account over to a collection agency.
How do I deal with Collection Agencies?
• In most provinces and territories you must be notified in writing that an account has been turned over to a collection agency. (Agencies are required to do this or to make a reasonable attempt to do so.) The agency will contact you to attempt to collect the money you owe to its client.
• Once the account has been officially turned over to a collection agency, you’ll be dealing only with that agency when making arrangements for payment. It may be best not to contact the original business—this just creates confusion—unless there’s an error in the account. When this is the case, advise both the business and the collection agency.
• When possible, pay the money you owe. You won’t have to deal with the agency once you have paid back the full amount. The agency is not allowed to collect more than the amount you owe and cannot charge for its costs to collect the debt.
• When it’s impossible for you to pay the full amount right away, explain why.
• Offer some alternative method of repayment, either a lump sum at a later date or a series of monthly payments.
• Never send cash. Always make payments in such a way that you have a receipt—either a cancelled cheque from your own bank or a receipt from the agency.
• Always be sure to have enough money in your account to cover any cheques you write to pay back your debt and never miss payments.
• When your financial circumstances change, contact the collection agency immediately and explain how things have changed. Follow up in writing.
Do not treat debts lightly. Leaving them unpaid long enough can result in court action, which could lead to money being taken from your paycheque and/or your assets being seized.
I Feel I’m Being Treated Unfairly by a Collection Agency
While rules vary across Canada, generally collection agencies are forbidden from doing the following:
• Trying to collect a debt without first notifying you in writing or making a reasonable attempt to do so.
• Recommending or starting legal or court action to collect a debt without first notifying you.
• Communicating with you or your family such that the communication amounts to harassment, or calling to collect a debt at certain prohibited times (which vary from one province or territory to another).
• Implying or giving false or misleading information to anyone.
• Communicating or attempting to communicate with you without identifying themselves, saying who is owed the money and stating the amount owed.
• Continuing to demand payment from a person who claims not to owe the money, unless the agency first takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the person does, in fact, owe the money.
• Contacting your friends, employer, relatives or neighbors for information, other than to get your telephone number or address. An exception would be if any of these people have guaranteed the debt or if you have asked the agency to contact them to discuss the debt or, in the case of your employer, to confirm your employment, your job title and your work address.
If you have concerns about the actions of a collection agency, contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office listed on the proceeding page.
Service Alberta, Consumer Contact Centre
3rd Floor Commerce Place
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4G8
Toll Free: 1-877-427-4088
Consumer Protection BC
#307-3450 Uptown Blvd
PO Box 9244
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9J2
Toll Free: 1-888-564-9963
Consumer Protection Office, Department of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection
302-258 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 0B6
Toll Free: 1-800-782-0067
Financial and Consumer Services Commission
Kings Place (King Tower)
440 King Street
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5H8
Toll Free: 1-866-933-2222
Newfoundland and Labrador
PO Box 8700
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador A1B 4J6
Toll Free: 1-877-968-2600
Consumer Affairs, Department of Municipal and Community Affairs
5201-50th Avenue, Suite 600
PO Box 1320
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories X1A 2L9
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Public Enquiries
Mail Room, 8 South
1505 Barrington Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3K5
Toll Free: 1-800-670-4357
Consumer Affairs, Department of Community and Government Services
267 Qaiqtuq Building
P.O. Box 440
Baker Lake, Nunavut X0C 0A0
Toll Free: 1-866-223-8139
Consumer Protection Branch, Ministry of Consumer Services
5775 Yonge Street, Suite 1500
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2E5
Toll Free: 1-800-889-9768
Phone (TTY): 416-229-6086
Phone (TTY) 2: 1-877-666-6545
Prince Edward Island
Consumer Services, Department of Environment, Labour and Justice
Shaw Building, 4th Floor
95 Rochford Street
PO Box 2000
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island C1A 7N8
Toll Free: 1-800-658-1799
Office de la protection du consommateur
400 Jean-Lesage Boulevard, Suite 450
Québec, Quebec G1K 8W4
Toll Free: 1-888-672-2556
Consumer Protection Division, Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority of Saskatchewan
1919 Saskatchewan Drive, Suite 500
Regina, Saskatchewan S4P 4H2
Toll Free: 1-888-374-4636
Consumer Services, Department of Community Services
307 Black Street
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 2N1
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0408 ext. 5111
The information contained above was obtained from: