Someone called me yesterday and suggested that I check out a website, www.debtconsolidationlaw.ca. This website is for a debt settlement law firm that I have never heard of before, TDF Debt Advisory Law PC. On the website’s OUR PROFESSIONALS webpage two indivdual’s bios can be found, Ronan Levy, a member of the Ontario bar, and Andrew Cooper, a licensed paralegal in Ontario.
Blurred line between Total Debt Freedom Inc. and TDF Debt Advisory Law PC
The first thing that struck me about the website for TDF Debt Advisory Law PC was the blurred line between this new law firm and Total Debt Freedom Inc., one of the largest debt settlement firms operating in Ontario over the past decade. The address for TDF Debt Advisory Law PC is listed on its website as 1650 Dundas Street E., Unit 205, Whitby, Ontario, L1N 2K8. This address is the identical address given by Total Debt Freedom Inc. as its office location on its website, www.totaldebtfreedom.ca.
I went to the BLOG page on TDF Debt Advisory Law PC’s website and I read the three blogs there. One was written by Andrew Cooper. One was written by “sdumrev”, someone who is unknown to me. Another one of the blogs was written by Richard Cooper. Richard Cooper’s blog contained a link to Total Debt Freedom’s website, www.totaldebtfreedom.ca.
I found it odd that there were three blog posts on this new website for a debt settlement law firm and not a single one was written by a lawyer at the firm. One of the blog posts was written by Andrew Cooper, a licensed paralegal. To the best of my knowledge, two of the three blog posts on the website were written by individuals, who were neither lawyers nor licensed paralegals.
Total Debt Freedom Inc. is “partnered” with TDF Debt Advisory Law PC
On the LET US SETTLE YOUR DEBT webpage on Total Debt Freedom’s website, www.totaldebtfreedom.ca, it states that “we have partnered with lawyers to provide better representation”.
On this webpage you can listen to Richard Cooper, President of Total Debt Freedom Inc., speak. Here is the link to this video:
Exemption for lawyers under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act
As a general rule, any firm providing debt settlement services to Ontario residents must possess a valid Ontario collection agency license. There is however, an exemption for lawyers. This exemption is contained in paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act and reads as follows:
2.(1) This Act does not apply
(a) to a barrister or solicitor in the regular practice of his or her profession or to his or her employees:
Given the unusual relationship between TDF Debt Advisory Law PC and Total Debt Freedom Inc. it will be interesting to see if the Ontario Registrar of Collection Agencies, a Tribunal, or a court, some day might take the position that neither TDF Debt Advisory Law PC nor Total Debt Freedom Inc. are exempt from the requirement of being licensed as a collection agency under the Act.
On July 1, 2015, the following anti-avoidance provision comes into effect as section 2.1 of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act. This section reads as follows:
2.1 In determining whether this Act applies to an entity or transaction, a court or other tribunal shall consider the real substance of the entity or transaction and in so doing may disregard the outward form.
This exemption is of critcal financial importance
If a lawyer is entitled to provide debt settlement services to Ontario residents under the above-noted exemption under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act then the law firm will not operate under any restrictions with respect to the fees that it can charge or when those fees are earned. In contrast, if a firm providing debt settlement services to Ontario residents is not exempt from the Act then it must possess an Ontario collection agency licence and it will be subject to draconian limitations concerning the fees that it can charge.
This week there may be some very interesting developments in the debt settlement industry in Ontario. If you would care to discuss these developments with me then I would invite you to contact me at (519) 827-5513. Alternatively, I would invite you to send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.