Your rights when dealing with debt collectors

Your rights with dealing with debt collectorsNo one wants to be in debt, but consumers may find themselves unable to pay their bills, which could then be sent to a collections agency. You may be worried the collections agent will call you constantly, and endlessly harass you for money. Here's how you can protect yourself from abusive debt collection practices.

First, don't take it personally. The creditor you owe money to has a right to expect payment. If you inform them of your situation, they may be more willing to work with you.

Under the Collections Agency Act, collection agencies do have a set of rules that they must follow. These vary from province to province, so check this list provided by Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs for further information.

If you've received a collection notice, the collection agency may not contact you for the next six days. If you have requested to not be contacted via the telephone, then they must obey your wish to only contact you through written communications. This is the best time to pay the bill, and saves any further action from the collections agency.

In regards to telephone calls, they may not endlessly harass you via the phone. In other words, repeated phone calls that harass you, your family or your workplace are simply not allowed. Collection agencies may only call you during certain times of the day. These may vary from province to province, but are generally only during business hours, limited hours on Sunday, and never on a statutory holiday.

The agency may not contact you more than three times in a one week period. This is for each separate creditor though, so if you have several outstanding debts with various creditors, then expect more calls.

They may not telephone anyone you know for any information, except for requesting your address and telephone number.

Don't just ignore the calls, return them. By exhibiting honesty and integrity, you are building a relationship with the agent, and they will have greater respect for you in the future. You don't want the collections agency to proceed to legal action, as this could end up being extremely costly for you.

Keep your communication with the collections agent completely professional. Treat them the way you would like to be treated. If you are unable to make a payment, tell them you cannot do so, and give a reason and a time frame. If you have made an agreement with the agency, get it in writing, and stick to it.

You must also receive legal written proof that the money that you once owed to the creditor is now owed to the collections agency. Do not send any money until you receive this proof first. If you are making payments, make sure that you receive a receipt for each and every payment.

If you feel you are genuinely being bullied or harassed, or the agent is giving you the wrong information, then make note of the time of each call, the name of the agent, the company, the date, the time, and the nature of the call. Report them to Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs.

If the collections calls are becoming too much to handle, seek the advice of a credit counsellor or a bankruptcy trustee.

By knowing your full rights in advance, you can feel confident in your dealings with a collections agency.

Written by Melanie Dixon.

Published August 24, 2009

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