Archive for February 2015

Illegal Debt Settlement Services Provided to Ontario Residents

Mark Silverthorn, Founder, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.

Mark Silverthorn, Founder, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.

 

Over the past few weeks I have been doing a substantial amount of research into the new regulatory regime for the debt settlement industry in Ontario.  As you might be aware, effective July 1, 2015, Ontario will have a new regulatory regime for those firms providing “debt settlement services”.  This includes not only what might be described as traditional debt settlement firms but also credit counselling agencies.

 

Draconian restrictions on fees for post-July 1, 2015 debt settlement agreements

The new law will have a devastating impact upon existing debt settlement firms operating in Ontario negotiating lump sum settlements on behalf of clients.  The new law contains draconian restrictions on fees–a maximum fee of ten percent of the amount of a debt at the time the debt settlement contract was signed.  Furthermore, on any debt settlement contract signed on or after July 1, 2015, a debt settlement firm will not be entitled to charge any fees until such time that a settlement is actually paid out!  These new restrictions regarding fees which affect all debt settlement contracts signed on or after July 1, 2015, except where the debt settlement provider is exempt from the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act, will make it very difficult for a debt settlement firm to be financial viable in the future.

 

Anger directed towards some mortgage brokers operating illegally in Ontario

Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to get some feedback from a signficant number of owners of debt settlement firms in Ontario who are licensed as collection agencies and who have been “playing by the rules” in terms of complying with Ontario’s existing regulatory regime for firms providing traditional debt settlement services.  What struck me these past few weeks is the anger felt by some of these debt settlement firm owners directed at certain mortgage brokers who they claim are operating illegally in Ontario–providing “debt settlement services” to their clients without being licensed as a collection agency in contravention of Ontario law.

 

Frustration with Ontario civil servants responsible for enforcing provincial law

What I have also learned over the past few weeks is the level of frustration among the owners of some Ontario-based debt settlement firms regarding the enforcement, or lack thereof, in connection with Ontario’s existing law regulating Ontario firms providing “debt settlement services”.  It would appear that a number of members of senior management at Ontario-based debt settlement firms have provided the Ontario Government with information about firms they believe are offering “debt settlement services” to Ontario residents illegally and the lack of response from the Ontario Government.

 

Provide me with information regarding illegal debt settlement operatiors in Ontario

Over the next few weeks and months I plan on gathering as much information as I can in connection with firms providing debt settlement services in Ontario.  Some of these firms–including some law firms and licensed bankruptcy trustees–might be exempt from the Act and, consequently they do not requrie an Ontario collection agency license.  In contrast, other firms will not be exempt from the Act.

I anticipate that some of the firms that might be offering “debt settlement services” illegally might not be considered to be traditional debt settlement firms.  It might be possible that a mortgage broker is providing “debt settlement services” illegally.  It is also possible that a firm which is holding itself out as “financial advisers” or “debt consultants” is providing debt settlement services” illegally if their activities fall within the definition of “debt settlement services”, the firm is not exempt from the Act, and the the firm does not possess a valid Ontario collection agency license.

 

 

Please feel free to contact me and provide me with information on an anonymous basis, unless you desire that your identity be made public.

Please feel free to contact me and provide me with information on an anonymous basis, unless you desire that your identity be made public.

 

I would invite anyone reading this blog to forward information or documentation to me which would suggest that a particular firm has engaged in debt settlement services in Ontario in circumstances where it is doing so illegally.  Feel free to send your material via e-mail to mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.  If you would care to discuss this issue on the phone with me then I would invite you to call me Toll Free at 1 (866) 996-9941 or at (519) 827-5513.

Why did I found Comprenhensive Debt Solutions Inc.?

 

Mark Silverthorn, Founder, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.

Mark Silverthorn, Founder, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.

 

Anyone who really knows me would say that I am passionate about the topic of consumer debt, financial literacy, and helping individuals experiencing problems dealing with their debt situation.  My partner, Danielle, might disagree with the word passionate.  She would say I am obsessed about it!

Between 2008 and 2009 I spent the better part of two years writing The Wolf At The Door:  What To Do When Collection Agencies Come Calling (2010), published by McClelland & Stewart.  You might be surprised to learn about the single most disturbing thing I discovered while researching The Wolf At The Door.   It certainly was not how mean-spirited and cruel that some bill collectors were in their dealings with debtors.  I knew that first-hand before I started writing my book!

What concerned me the most, in fact, was the conduct of what I call the “debt help industry” in Canada.  These are the people advertising on the radio or the internet informing consumers how they can help eliminate their debt.  When I speak about the “debt help industry” I would include debt consolidation loan providers, credit counselling agencies, debt settlement firms, and bankruptcy trustees.  I know a number of these people personally, many of whom I consider to be friends and for whom I have the highest regard.

A consumer experiencing financial distress could conceivably have more than one attractive option for dealing with their current debt situation.  They might take out a debt consolidation loan, enroll in a Debt Management Plan with a credit counselling agency, sign a contract for debt settlement services or see a bankrupty trustee and make a consumer proposal or file for personal bankruptcy.  Alternatively, because the consumer is judgment proof, near-judgment proof, or because of the expiry of a limitation period they might be better off doing absolutely nothing.

 

To a significant extent the “debt help industry” is marketing services–and not providing unbiased financial advice

Unfortunately, these firms in the “debt help industry” do not receive a penny in compensation for providing consumers advice–they are only compensated when you sign up for a service, or program, offered by their particular firm.  It is simply human nature that when a consumer makes an appointment to see someone in the “debt help industry” the information that the consumer receives is going to be influenced–to some extentby the fact that if the consumer walks out that door without “signing up” for the particular debt relief option available from that firm then the firm does not earn a penny in fees.  Firms in the “debt help industry” have a significant conflict of interest providing unbiased financial advice to a consumer with debt problems.

Life in the modern world is full of conflicts of interest.  What makes conflicts of interest in the “debt help industry” tragic is the existence of a perfect storm.  This perfect storm is created by the vulnerability of people experiencing debt problems combined with the abysmal level of financial literacy amongst Canadians.  Few Canadians know what their options are for eliminating debt and fewer still can identify the one or two optimal strategies for dealing with their debt situation.

 

Many distressed consumers making very poor debt-related decisions

Each weekday in Canada tens of thousands of Canadians receive collection calls and collection letters from creditors, collection agencies and law firms regarding overdue bills.  These communications–particularly collection calls from aggresive bill collectors–encourage people to make poor decisions addressing their debt situation.  The carnage arising from these poor decisions is hard to quantify but it contributes to a virtual ocean of unhappiness including many failed relationships and divorce.

Over the past eight years I have often said that it would be great if Canadians could simply phone an expert on consumer debt, pay the expert for 15 or 30 minutes of the expert’s time, and have the expert help identify the one or two most optimal strategies for dealing with the consumer’s particular debt situation.  The expert is simply being paid for his unbiased advice.  He has no financial incentive to encourage you to select a particular debt resolution service.

 

New era has arrived:  Unbiased expert debt resolution advice

It is February 16, 2015, and that day I often thought about has arrived!  It is now possible for Canadians, or a non-resident who has incurred a debt in Canada, to call Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc., arrange a brief telephone call at a reasonable cost, and receive advice from Mark Silverthorn–not only advice from a recognized expert on consumer debt but also from an unbiased source of information.

"I look forward to helping Canadians resolving their outstanding debt situation in the most  optimal way!" Mark Silverthorn

“I look forward to helping Canadians resolving their outstanding debt situation in the most optimal way!”
Mark Silverthorn

 

I anticipate having a very fulfilling time assisting Canadians!