On the Mark Silverthorn Blog you can read a blog post dated June 30, 2015, titled “TDF Debt Advisory Law PC: new debt settlement service provider”. TDF Debt Advisory Law PC, a Whitby, Ontario-based law firm appears to have begun operations sometime in June of this year.
TDF Debt Advisory Law PC’s website, www.debtconsolidationlaw.ca, does not contain much information about which provinces and territories where the law firm offers debt settlement services. I assumed that over the next several months I would learn where this law firm was offering debt settlement services.
My recent experience with the law firm’s online chat feature
Imagine my surprise when a representative from TDF Debt Advisory Law PC provided me with this information yesterday. On Sunday, July 5th, I just happend to visit the homepage for TDF Debt Advisory Law PC’s website and I was surprised to see something new–an online chat box in which a representative from TDF Debt Advisory Law PC invited me to communicate. Having nothing better to do I spent the next couple of hours chatting with one or more representatives from TDF Debt Advisory Law PC and capturing screenshots of our communications for posterity.
I have two take-aways from my exposure to TDF Debt Advisory Law PC over the past week:
- The firm is offering its services in every province and territory in Canada
- I have no idea as to who is actually running this law firm
TDF Debt Advisory Law PC is offering debt settlement services across Canada
Mr. Ronan Levy, the lawyer operating TDF Debt Advisory Law PC, is licensed to practice law in Ontario and the law firm’s address is in Whitby, Ontario. Therefore, it would seem reasonable to conclude the TDF Debt Advisory Law PC offers debt settlement services to Ontario residents. What is unclear from TDF Debt Advisory Law PC’s website, www.debtconsolidationlaw.ca, is where the firm is offering debt settlement services to Canadians outside of Ontario.
During this online chat I was able to specifically ask the representative from TDF Debt Advisory Law PC if the law firm provided debt settlement services in a particular province or territory.
Here is the answer when I asked about offering services to Quebec residents.
Here is a screenshot of the answers for the four Atlantic provinces:
Here are the answers for the three territories:
I was able to ask a question about all four of the western provinces, with the exception of British Columbia, before the online chat box disappeared from TDF Debt Advisory Law PC’s website. Here are the answers for Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba:
Legal basis for an Ontario lawyer providing debt settlement services to Ontario residents
In Ontario a firm which provides debt settlement services to Ontario residents must be licensed as a collection agency under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act, unless it falls within an exemption under the Act. This Act does contain an exemption for lawyers. It remains to be seen, however, whether or not a court will rule that TDF Debt Advisory Law PC can bring itself within the lawyer’s exemption under the Act. If an Ontario court were to rule that TDF Debt Advisory Law PC is not exempt under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act then it would be required to obtain an Ontario collection agency license and its ability to generate fees would be dramatically diminished.
Legal basis for an Ontario lawyer to provide debt settlement services to Canadians outside of Ontario
Some, but not all, provinces have laws similar to Ontario requiring debt settlement providers to have a specific license–a collection agency licence or a debt repayment license–unless they are exempt from the Act. In some of these provinces, provincial agencies responsible for regulating debt settlement firms take the position that an Ontario lawyer is not entitled to rely upon the “lawyer’s exemption” in their provincial statute and must be licensed as a collection agency in the province where the debt settlement services are being offered.
This means that TDF Debt Advisory Law PC might find itself in a position where one or more regulators, responsible for regulating debt settlement firms in a particular province, take the position that TDF Debt Advisory Law PC must obtain the necessary collection agency license (or debt repayment license) in order to carry on business in that province. If TDF Debt Advisory Law PC were required to be licensed under provincial law like any other debt settlement provider then TDF Debt Advisory Law PC’s ability to generate fees would be substantially reduced.
Who is running this law firm?
I have been following this law firm for less than a week and the question that I keep asking myself is who is running this law firm?
Here are some of the reasons why I ask this question:
- TDF Debt Advisory Law PC shares the same premises with Total Debt Freedom Inc., a company which has been one of the largest debt settlement providers in Ontario over the past 10 years
- There are reciprocal links between Total Debt Freedom’s website and that of TDF Debt Advisory Law PC
- As of July 5, 2015, Richard Cooper, the President of Total Debt Freedom Inc., has contributed more blogs to TDF Debt Advisory Law PC’s website than Ronan Levy, the Ontario lawyer who operates TDF Debt Advisory Law PC
- I find it hard to believe that a member of the Ontario bar vetted the language on the website for TDF Debt Advisory Law PC
- I am surprised that the website for TDF Debt Advisory Law PC has an online chat feature in which a representative of the firm advised me that the firm offered debt settlement services in every Canadian province and territory
Ontario has a new debt settlement regime in place effective July 1, 2015. As far as any debt settlement agreements signed with an Ontario resident are concerned, any debt settlement agreement signed after that date severely restricts the fees that a consumer can be charged. That is, unless you are exempt from the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act. Some people might think that the new restrictions on fees for debt settlement service providers in Ontario commencing July 1, 2015, and the recent entrance of TDF Debt Advisory Law PC into the Ontario debt settlement marketplace are related events.
If you would like to discuss the new Ontario debt settlement regime or you have a question regarding debt settlement or debt coaching then I would invite you to call me at (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513. Alternatively, you can send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.