Despite best efforts, sometimes people fall behind on payments to creditors. When this happens, a creditor has the right to collect on a debt that’s owed to them, and the consumer has the right to be treated reasonably and with respect. A collection agency is a business that arranges for the payment of outstanding account balances and money owed to a company.
Rules for collection agencies
The agency and the individuals who work as collectors must be licensed with FCNB. Collection agencies and the individuals who work for them as collectors cannot:
- threaten or start legal or court action to collect a debt without first notifying you and receiving the creditor’s approval
- collect more money than you owe the business or person who hired them
- call you in a way that costs you money (such as collect calls or in some cases, calls to cellphones if the call results in additional charges or costs to you),
- call you at work
- discuss your debt with anyone else unless they have your permission (they may request you provide written permission)
- threaten or intimidate you or use abusive language
- communicate with you without identifying themselves, the name of the collection agency, the name of the company they are collecting for and the amount owed
- call so often or in such a way that you or your family feels harassed
- call before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday
- call before 1 p.m. or after 5 p.m. on Sunday
- call you on a holiday
- communicate or attempt to communicate with you at your place of employment
- contact your employer, friends, family or neighbours unless they have guaranteed or co-signed the loan they are trying to collect (except if they are looking for your address)
For full details on prohibited practices of collection agencies, please review General Regulation – Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.
Tips for dealing with a collection agency
- Avoid confusion by dealing directly with the collection agency for payment arrangements as opposed to the original creditor. But if there is a mistake in your account, it is a good practice to advise both the collection agency and the original creditor and to provide them with the relevant documentation.
- When possible, pay the money you owe. Once the full amount is paid back, you won’t have to deal with the agency anymore. The agency can only collect what you owe, and can’t charge you any fees for collecting the debt.
- When it’s not feasible for you to pay the full amount right away, suggest a different payment arrangement, such as a lump sum at a later date or a series of monthly payments.
- Get a receipt for any payment you make so you have proof of your payment (for example, 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.
How to stop a collection agency from calling
While you can’t stop a collection agency from contacting you completely, you can ask collectors to only contact you in writing or through a lawyer, if you have one. To do so, you must make the request in writing. In your letter, it is important to clearly request that communication be in writing only; include identifying information like your name, phone number, or account number; and provide an address where the creditor can send any correspondence. Send the request by fax (with a confirmation report) or registered mail so you have proof of when it was sent and that it was received.
Making a complaint about a collection agency
If you are dealing with a collection agency who you feel is violating the rules it is supposed to follow, contact the supervisor or manager of the agency and express your concerns. If you cannot resolve the matter with the agency, please Submit a Complaint.
Be sure to have the collector’s name, your file or reference number, and the dates and times of any phone calls the agency has made.