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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.