Archive for May 2015

Mistake for frontline collectors to be sending e-mails to consumers

 

In most large collection agencies the only staff with the authority to communicate with consumers via e-mail are senior managers and possibly collection supervisors.  As a general rule, large collection agencies do not permit frontline collectors to communicate with consumers via e-mail–only by telephone.  There is a good reason for this self-imposed restriction.  Some frontline collectors can, and often do, act in a very impulsive, immature manner which sometimes crosses the line into socially unacceptable and even illegal behavior.

A recent example involving an Ontario resident and a collection agency licensed to operate in that province illustrates what can happen when a collector communicates with a consumer via e-mail

In the past few days I came into possession of a redacted copy of an e-mail that was sent by a collector on April 24, 2015, to an Ontario resident.  Here is a copy of this e-mail.  Some content has been blacked out, or “redacted”, to protect the anonymity of the consumer.

This is a redacted copy of an e-mail dated April 24, 2015, sent from a collector at a collection agency to an Ontario resident.

This is a redacted copy of an e-mail dated April 24, 2015, sent from a collector at a collection agency to an Ontario resident.

 

Most people reading this e-mail would find it disturbing.  Since a collector at a collection agency sent this e-mail to an Ontario resident then we should look at the Ontario Debt Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act, the relevant law regulating the conduct of collection agencies operating in Ontario, to get some sense as to whether or not any provincial laws have been broken.

 

Illegal for a collection agency to threaten legal action unless it has express written authority to commence legal proceedings

In this e-mail the collector threatens to commence a lawsuit against an Ontario resident in connection with an unpaid account.   The collector in question has contravened subsection 23(1) of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act by sending this e-mail unless her collection agency-employer had written permission to sue this file on April 24, 2015, the date that the e-mail was sent to the consumer.

 

Illegal for a collection agency or a collector to provide a consumer with false or misleading information

This e-mail would appear to be full of statements which would contravene subsection 24(a) which reads as follows:

24.    No collection agency or collector shall,

(a)  give any person, directly or indirectly, by implication or otherwise, any false or misleading information.

This e-mail contains a number of statements which, directly or indirectly, contain false or misleading information:

  • That if the consumer is sued the creditor will automatically obtain a judgment against the consumer
  • Those entities regulating nurses in a number of provinces will become aware of the existence of a judgment against the consumer
  • The existence of a judgment against a nurse for an unpaid debt would mean that the nurse is no longer bondable in Canada
  • The existence of a judgment against a nurse might result in the revocation of the consumer’s nursing license

I would be very surprised if the collector who wrote this e-mail, and the collector’s collectionagency- employer, have not contravened subsection 24(a) of the Act.

 

Repucussions of this collector’s adventure with e-mail

If I were the president of the collection agency employing this collector I would be very concerned that the creditor on whose behalf my agency is attempting to collect this account–as well as my existing client base, and my future clients– might learn of the existence of this e-mail.  A creditor has legal  liability for the misconduct of its authorized collection agent.  This means that if a collector does something stupid then a consumer can sue not only the collector, as well as the collection agency, but also the creditor on whose behalf the account was being collected.

As a result of this incident this collector should have had her e-mail privileges revoked.  I would imagine that many collection agencies would write up a collector for this type of behavior and some collection agencies would fire a collector for this unprofessional conduct.

If you have received an e-mail from a bill collector which you believe is unprofessional then I would invite you to share it with me.  You can call me toll free at 1 (866) 996-9941 or at (519) 827-5513.  You are also welcome to send your e-mail to myself at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.

You might want to call Mark Silverthorn and learn more about how to stop workplace collction calls.

You might want to call Mark Silverthorn if you have received an unprofessional e-mail from a bill collector.

 

Stopping workplace collection calls on monies owing to a bank

 

If you are a Canadian consumer owing monies to a bank then, under federal law, you can employ a number of tactics for stopping collection calls to your workplace.  One such tactic is sending a one-page “cease and desist” letter to the organization calling you–your bank or its authorized collection agent.  I explain this tactic in my blog post dated May 15, 2015, titled “Canadians can stop collection calls on monies owing to a bank for $10.00”.  In this blog post I describe how someone owing monies to a bank can stop collection calls using a “cease and desist” letter–a tactic that costs about $10.00.

 

A Canadian receiving collection calls on a bank debt can stop the collection calls by sending a "cease and desist" letter by registered mail.

A Canadian receiving collection calls on a bank debt can stop the collection calls by sending a “cease and desist” letter by registered mail.

 

The other tactic–to stop workplace collection calls on monies owing to a bank–is the topic for the remainder of this blog. This tactic for stopping workplace collection calls regarding monies owing to a bank will not cost you a penny!

 

For about $10 a Canadian consumer can stop collection calls in connection with monies owing to a bank.

I am not going to win any friends at Canada’s banks, collection agencies, or collection law firms by explaining how Canadians can stop workplace collection calls regarding monies owing to a bank..

 

 

Bill collector speaks to you at your “home telephone number”

Canadian consumers can take advantage of a federal law that makes it illegal for an entity collecting a bank debt to call you at your workplace after one of its employees has made a collection call to you at your “home telephone number”.  The law in question is subsection 7(6) of the Federal Credit Business Practices Regulations, SOR/2009-257, which reads as follows:

7 (6)   An institution may not contact a debtor at the debtor’s place of employment unless

(a) the institution does not have the home address or home telephone number of the debtor;

(b) attempts by the institution to contact the debtor at their home telephone number has failed; or

(c) the institution obtains written authorization from the debtor to do so

 

Under this federal law you can stop workplace calls provided the following two conditions are satisfied.  The entity attempting to collect a bank debt from you (1) has knowledge as to your “home telephone number”, and (2) it calls you at your “home telephone number” and it speaks with you at this phone number on one occasion.

 

Scenario A    Bill collector has called you on your “home phone number”

Once an employee of your bank, or its authorized collection agent–collection agency, or a paralegal or law firm acting on its behalf–has called you on your “home phone number” regarding your unpaid account to make a payment demand then it is illegal under subsection 7(6) of the Federal Credit Business Practices Regulations for you to receive collection calls at your workplace in connection with this account.

 

Scenario B:   Bill Collector has yet to call you on your “home phone number”

If you have not received a phone call from a bill collector at your “home phone number” regarding monies owing to a bank then you can solicit a collection call from a bill collector who is currently assigned your unpaid account.  As soon as you are successful at soliciting a collection call at your “home telephone number” from a bill collector working for the entity attempting to collect your unpaid bank debt then it will be illegal for that organization to make any collection calls to your workplace.

For the remainder of this blog post I am going to walk you through a five-step guide for soliciting a collection call to your “home phone number” on monies owing to a bank–after which collection calls at your workplace would be illegal under the federal Credit Business Practices Regulations.

 

Step One:

Go to your bank’s website and call the toll free number for Customer Service.

 

Step Two:

Request the name and phone number for the entity that is responsible for collecting your unpaid account owing to a bank.  It will be one of the following:

  • in-house collection department at your bank
  • collection agency collecting your account on a contingency basis
  • law firm or a paralegal
  • your debt has been purchased by a non-bank (in which case this tactic is not available)

 

Step Three:

Phone the entity  responsible for collecting your unpaid bank debt during business hours and simply obtain the name of the collector responsible for your unpaid account and their telephone number including their extension, if they have one.  You should also request the orgnanization’s reference number corresponding to your account.  You might  also want to obtain  the e-mail address for their supervisor.  Please note that most front-line collectors are not given authority to communicate with debtors via e-mail–only supervisors.

 

Step Four:

Outside of regular business hours, phone the collector assigned to your account and leave them a voicemail message.  In your voicemail message you can leave the following information requesting a return phone call to a phone number which you expressly describe as your home phone number:

  • your name
  • a phone number you describe as your home phone number
  • the name of your creditor
  •  the last few digits of your account number
  • the organization’s reference number or file number for your account, if you know what it is

If you obtain an e-mail address for the supervisor of the collector responsible  for the collector  at the entity collecting your bank debt then you can send an e-mail to the supervisor with this information requesting a phone call at your “home telephone number”.

 

Step Five:

If a collector, or some other representative from the entity attemtping to collect your account, calls you you then it wil likely be necessary for you to identify yourself by name.  You might be asked to provide your date of birth or the last three digits of your Social Insurance Number so the collector can confirm they are speaking with the correct person.

At this point you can do the following:

  • Ask the collector if the call is being recorded
  • Inform them they are calling you on your “home telephone number”
  • At any point you wish you can then terminate the phone call    (ideally you should give the collector enough opportunity to make a demand for payment)

Assuming that an employee from the organization attempting to collect your unpaid bank debt has called you at your “home telephone number” regarding your unpaid account and spoken with you then you any future calls to you at your workplace regarding this unpaid bank debt would be illegal.

For more information about stopping workplace collection calls I would invite you to do one or more of the following:

  • Call me toll free at 1 (866) 996-9941  or  at  (519) 827-5513
  • Visit my firm’s website, www.comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca for more details

 

You might want to call Mark Silverthorn and learn more about how to stop workplace collction calls.

You might want to call Mark Silverthorn and learn more about how to stop workplace collection calls.

No trip to Stratford, Ontario, complete without stop here

 

You, like many Canadians, might have spent the day in Stratford, Ontario, population 30,000, home to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

If you are planning a visit to Stratford to attend a play at the Shakespeare Festival, and possibly spend some time visiting places where Justin Bieber hung out as a teenager, then your visit would not be complete unless you drove by 61 Lorne Avenue East, the head office of Credit Risk Management Canada  Ltd., one of the largest collection agencies in Canada.

 

CRM

According to our industry sources, Credit Risk Management Canada Ltd. employs approximately 100 collectors licensed in the Province of Ontario.  Using the number of collectors as our barometer of collection agency size, this means that Credit Risk Management Canada Ltd. would rank somewhere around the sixteenth largest collection agency in Canada.

 

I recently travelled to Stratford, Ontario, to shoot some YouTube videos in front of the head office for Credit Risk Management Canada Ltd.

My firm’s website, www.comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca, is currently in the process of creating a dedicated webpage for each of the largest collection agencies in Canada–a group that includes any collection agency employing more than 50 collectors in Canada making third party collection calls to Canadian residents.

In the future these dedicated webpages will becamse an important source of information for not only consumers but also persons working in the collection industry, government regulators, and members of the media.

 

Consumers can stop collection calls on monies owing to a bank for $10.00

 

In this one-minute video featured on YouTube I inform Canadians that they can stop collection calls in connection with monies owing to a bank for about ten dollars.           Video footage courtesy of Emilie van Gent.

 

Somewhere between 50 and 75 percent of all collection calls made to Canadians involve an unsecured consumer debt owing to a bank–credit cards, personal loans, lines of credit, and bank overdrafts.

 

Canadians owe billions of dollars to banks for unsecured credit cards.

Canadians owe billions of dollars to banks for unsecured credit cards.

 

 

A Canadian’s options for stopping collection calls on monies owing to a bank

 

A Canadian consumer, receiving collection calls on monies owing to a bank, who want to stop these calls has a number of options. They can meet with a bankruptcy trustee and file for personal bankruptcy or make a consumer proposal.  Alternatively, they can enroll in a Debt Management Plan with a credit counselling agency–in which case they would typically make 48 monthly installment payments for an amount equal to somewhere between 110 percent and 130 percent of their current unsecured consumer debt–to eliminate their debt.

Alternatively, a consumer could, all by himself, spend about $10.00 and send a one-page “cease and desist” letter, by registered mail, to the bank, or its authorized collection agent; collection agency or law firm, demanding that the collection calls cease.  Once the entity making the collection calls received this one-page “cease and desist” letter by registered mail it would then be illegal for this entity to make any further collection calls.

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Under federal law Canadian consumers can stop collection calls on monies owing monies to a bank.

 

 

Federal Credit Business Practices Regulations

On January 1, 2010, the federal Government enacted the Credit Business Practices Regulations, SOR/2009-257.  Section 7 of this Regulation contains an incredible array of weapons for Canadian consumers coping with collection activities on behalf of Canadian banks. You can find the link to the Credit Business Practices Regulations on my firm’s website, www.comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca. Here is the link:

http://www.comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca/collecting-monies-owed-to-banks.html

 

Best kept secret in Canada

Unfortunately, these regulations are the best kept secret in Canada.  I recently had a conversation with the owner of a debt settlement firm in Ontario who was not aware that these regulations even existed–some five years after they became law!  If he is not aware of the existence of these regulations then I doubt that more than 5,000 Canadian adults are familiar with this law and most of these individuals are likely employed full-time collecting monies owing to banks.

 

Two situations where this remedy is not available

There are two circumstances where a debtor receiving collection calls in connection with monies owed to a bank is not going to be able to take advantage of federal law to stop collection calls by sending a “cease and desist” letter by registered mail:

  • The debt was incurred by a business and not a “consumer”
  • The debt has been sold and is no longer owned by a bank

If the bank has sold your debt then you will likely not be entitled to stop collection calls by relying upon federal law because these rights are only afforded in circumstances where the monies are owing to a federally-regulated bank.  It is possible, however, that your bank debt has been sold to some other entity which is a federally regulated financial institution in which case you could still send a “cease and desist” letter to stop collection calls.

In Canada it is not common for banks to sell their debt.  In fact, I would be surprised if more than five percent of all unsecured consumer debt owned by Canadian banks is ever sold to a debt buyer.  If you incurred debt owing to a bank in a consumer transaction–and not for business purposes–then the odds are somewhere around 95 percent that you are going to be able to stop collection calls concerning this indebtedness by sending a “cease and desist” letter by registered mail.

 

Logistics regarding stopping collection calls on a bank debt

If you want to stop collection calls regarding monies you allegedly owe to a bank then the first thing you need to confirm is which entity is making these collection calls.  There are four potential scenarios:

  • collectors employed by a bank
  • collectors employed by a collection agency
  • employees at a law firm
  • collectors working at a dedicated debt buyer  (remedy not available)

Once you confirm the entity which is making these collection calls then you need to obtain its mailing address.

 

Language to be used on your one-page cease and desist letter

The wording that you should use on your one-page cease and desist letter to be sent, by registered mail, to the entity making collection calls, is pretty straightforward.

Option A:

You can demand that any further communications from their firm be in writing and you provide them with your current home mailing address.

Option B:

You can inform them that you dispute owing the debt, and you invite them to resolve the matter in court.

 

Requirement that your cease and desist letter be sent by registered mail

It is a legal requirement that your cease and desist letter, sent to an entity attempting to collect a debt owing to a bank, demanding that collection calls stop must be sent by registered mail.  This will require you, or someone on your behalf, to attend at a Canada Post office, or Canada Post franchise, and arrange to send your cease and desist letter via registered mail.  A registered letter costs about $9.00, plus postage–or approximately $10.00.

 

Important for you to be able to prove you sent your cease and desist letter

Bill collectors often like to play games with consumers.  One of the games some unprofessional bill collectors like to play is called “We never received any cease and desist letter from you”.  It is important that you keep the following in a safe place–and ideally scan these images onto your computer:

  • copy of your signed cease and desist letter
  • your receipt from Canada Post for your registered letter

Your receipt from Canada Post for your registered letter will contain a tracking number for your letter and this will enable you to prove your registered letter was received.

If a bill collector claims that it never received your cease and desist letter then you can request the e-mail address for the collector and/or their supervisor and send them, via e-mail, not only a copy of your signed cease and desist letter but also your receipt from Canada Post for your registered letter.

 

It might be necessary for you to send another cease and desist letter at some future date

A bank will typically try to collect an unpaid account using staff working in the bank’s in-house collection department for six months.  At some point after monies owing to a bank are more than six months in default your account might be sent to a collection agency–for collection on a contingency basis–or in some cases it might be sent to a law firm.  There are a number of law firms in Canada that employ staff whose primary function is to make collection calls just like a collector at a collection agency or your the in-house collection department at your bank.

If your bank farms out your unpaid bank debt to a collection agency, and it remains unpaid, then after a period of several months, your bank will typically recall the account and assign it to a different collection agency.

The fact that over a period of three to 24 months that you might receive collection calls from three or four different organizations means that you will have to send out more than one cease and desist letter if your goal is to stop collection calls regarding monies owing to a bank.

 

Collection calls that are made after an entity receives a cease and desist letter

Once an entity receives a cease and deist letter demanding that it stop making collection calls in connection with a bank debt then it is illegal for that entity to make any further collection calls to you.  If you do receive collection calls after the entity has received a cease and desist letter you have a number of remedies available to you.

Depending upon which entity is calling you and the unprofessionalism of the collection calls then you might want to make a complaint to the following organizations:

  • Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC)
  • provincial regulator responsible for regulating collection agencies
  • senior management at bank to whom you allegedly owe the money
  • senior management at the organization making these collection calls
  • contacting the media
  • call the police (where warranted under the circumstances)

Furthermore, you might want to obtain legal advice concerning a potential lawsuit.

For more information about stopping collection calls from banks you are welcome to call Mark Silverthorn toll free at 1 (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513 or contact via e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca

 

For more information about cease and desist letters you might want to call Mark Silverthorn.

For more information about cease and desist letters you might want to call Mark Silverthorn.

 

 

 

 

Five Dirtiest Debt Collection Tactics


Over the weekend I was a guest on a radio program called Debt Free in 30. The program's host, Doug Hoyes, Bankruptcy Trustee, asked me to list the five dirtiest tactics employed by unprofessional debt collectors. He also asked me about my earlier career as a collection lawyer and advice about stopping and avoiding collection calls.

dfi30

Over the May 2nd and 3rd weekend I was a guest on an episode of Debt Free in 30 which aired on about eight radio stations in Toronto and southwestern Ontario.

Over the May 2nd and 3rd weekend I was a guest on an episode of Debt Free in 30 which aired on about eight radio stations in Toronto and southwestern Ontario.

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  • About Mark Silverthorn

    Mark Silverthorn is a former collection lawyer and collection industry insider.

    He is the author of "The Wolf At The Door: What To Do When Collection Agencies Come Calling" (2010) published by McClelland & Stewart.

    He is routinely consulted by the media on issues concerning consumer debt and the activities of bill collectors.