What was the rationale behind my resignation as Senior Editor of Bankruptcy Canada Inc.?

I anticipate that by the end of 2015 that I will be contributing content concerning consumer debt to a growing number of websites.

I anticipate that by the end of 2015 that I will be contributing content concerning consumer debt to a growing number of websites.

 

For a period of 18 months –from June 1, 2014, to September 30, 2015–I had the opportunity to serve as the Senior Editor of Bankruptcy Canada Inc.  The firm’s website has been described as one of the two most popular bankruptcy-related websites in Canada.  During this 18-month period I contributed 60,000 words worth of articles on a variety of issues related to consumer debt.

On September 30, 2015, I tendered my resignation as Senior Editor of Bankruptcy Canada Inc. in order to devote more time to a number of exciting new initiatives.  I want to thank the ownership group at Bankruptcy Canada Inc. for giving me the opportunity to serve as Senior Editor of the firm’s website and I want to wish them success in the future.

Now I would like to share with you some of my new initiatves in the coming months.

 

Consumer Experience Audit work

There are a host of firms that offer professional services or offer services to consumers struggling with debt making a significant financial investment in not only the firm’s website but also on advertising.  Many of these firms end up wasting this money because the resulting consumer experience is lacking.

An example will help illustrate this.  Earlier this year my firm, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc., conducted a Consumer Experience Audit in a community on behalf of a bankruptcy trustee.  We arranged to have a mystery shopper request an interview with several bankruptcy trustees by completing an online request form found on the trustees’ websites. The results were a real eye-opener.  One national firm of bankruptcy trustees failed to book an appointment with our mystery shopper despite three online requests and one telephone call to the trustee’s office initiated by our mystery shopper.

Our mystery shopper then scheduled an appointment with any firm that was capable of scheduling an appointment.  We then looked at the consumer experience from the initial phone call with the trustee’s office to book the appointment to the actual appointment.  Some firms scheduled an appointment within two business days–others took more than ten days.  In one case our mystery shopper was 20 minutes late to an appointment because the trustee’s name could not be found on the digital directory in the lobby.  One trustee kept our mystery shopper waiting so long after the scheduled time for his appointment that he wanted to leave prior to the meeting–but remained solely because he was being paid to speak with the trustee.

Our mystery shopper surreptitiously made an audio recording of the meeting with each trustee.  Not surprisingly, despite the fact that our mystery shopper provided each trustee with identical facts regarding their debt situation, our mystery shopper received different advice.

Based upon our experience, prospective clients should be aware of red flags of a less than optimal service provider. If a prospective client does not receive a rapid response to an inquiry then that service provider might not give priority to client satisfaction, and the prospective client might be better served looking elsewhere.

 

New Blogging and ghostwriting opportunities

Over the past few weeks our firm has had a number of discussions with entities providing information or services to consumers experiencing debt problems.  The purpose of these discussions was to determine whether or not it was a good fit for me to provide content for their website or their social media campaigns.  In some instances, Danielle Lorimer, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.’s Business Manager has arranged for me to  contribute a regular guest blog post for an organization.  In some other cases, she has arranged for me to ghostwrite content for an organization.

A few days ago I wrote my first blog post for moneyproblems.ca titled “Who Are These Bill Collectors Calling Me?”  I am scheduled to write my first blog post for shedthedebt.ca later this month.

Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.’s Business Manager, Danielle Lorimer, has informed me that there is a good chance that Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc. will be entering into an agreement for either contributing blog posts or ghostwriting content for several organizations over the next few weeks and months.

 

Mark Silverthorn Blog and my LinkedIn posts

In February of this year I began publishing posts on both the Mark Silverthorn Blog and on Linkedin.  During the first few months these posts were on relatively mundane topics.  It was not very long, however, before some of these posts raised questions about the conduct of specific organizations.  Some of posts this summer involved significant inquiries–researching government records, taking photographs and screenshots from websites, the use of mystery shoppers, and obtaining copies of debt settlement agreements.

These posts which were investigative in nature began to generate some interest not only in the financial services industry but also in the media.  Over the past eight months the number of my LinkedIn Connections grew eightfold–from 330 to over 2,750.  The Mark Silverthorn Blog was referred to in an article dated August 1, 2015, written by journalist Sunny Freeman in Huffington Post Canada.  More recently, I wrote an article dated September 21, 2015, for the paper edition of the Law Times titled “Questions raside by deputy judge’s debt settlement activities”.

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Comprehensvedebtsolutions.ca to carry advertising

Our firm’s website, comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca, was launched in mid-February of this year.  Our marketing budget since February of this year has been zero.  If anyone would have asked me then if we would be carrying paid advertising for a national firm in October of this year I would have simply laughed.  The fact remains, however, that I anticipate that sometime this month advertising will appear on comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.

This past week Danielle Lorimer, Business Manager, for Comprehensive Debt Solutions, informed me that our firm has entered into an agreement to carry advertising for Consumer Debtor Protection of Canada Ltd. on our firm’s website.  Yesterday, Danielle Lorimer, released the following statement on behalf of Comprehensive Debt Solutions.

 

PRESS  RELEASE

For immediate release:

October 2, 2015

Kitchener, Ontario:  “Comprehensive Debt Solutions, a firm focusing on assisting consumers struggling with consumer debt, will now offer advertising opportunities on our firm’s website.  We are pleased to announce that our first paid advertising client is Consumer Debtor Protection of Canada Ltd. (CDPCL),–cdpcl.com.” says Danielle Lorimer, Business Manager, Comprehensive Debt Solutions.  CDPCL is a firm that represents consumers across Canada seeking representation when they resolve their debt situation by way of a consumer proposal.  CDPCL’s goal is to assist their clients obtain the best possible terms when meeting with a bankruptcy trustee to make a consumer proposal.

Any inquiries regarding advertising opportunities on comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca should be directed to Danielle Lorimer, Business Manager, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.

– 30 –

For further information contact:

Danielle Lorimer

Tel. : (866) 996-9941          e-mail:  danielle@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca

 

Mark Silverthorn serves the public

While I might write content for a number of websites, offer advice to other organizations, and our firm’s website will accept paid advertising–our integrity is paramount.  Our goal is never to let any issue distract us from serving the public. The fact that I contribute content to an organization’s website or that comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca accepts paid advertising from a particular firm should not be construed as an endorsement of that organization.

I make a commitment to those who read the Mark Silverthorn Blog or those reading content on comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca that our goal is to serve our readers, to provide accurate information, and to educate and inform you–our loyal readers.

 

My article appearing in Law Times raises questions about Ontario Deputy Judge’s firm offering debt settlement services

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This article appeared in the paper edition of the Law Times dated September 21, 2015.  It did not appear in the smaller digital version of the Law Times of the same date.

 

On September 21, 2015, the Law Times, a weekly publication for Ontario lawyers, ran an article I wrote titled “Questions raised about deputy judge’s debt settlement activity”, in the publication’s paper edition.   The URL for the Law Times is www.lawtimesnews.com.  This article does not appear in the September 21, 2015 digital edition of the Law Times.

The full text of this article can be found at the end of this post.

In this article I asked whether or not an Ontario Deputy Judge’s recent foray into the Ontario debt settlement marketplace will lower the public’s opinion towards both lawyers and judges in this province.

I also ask questions about the relationship between the unnamed deputy judge operating  Ontario Debt Law, OCCA, Quick Connect Solutions, and debthelpers.ca.

This article is based upon my post, dated August 16, 2015, published earlier this year on this blog, titled “OCCA helps Deputy Judge Serafini and Ontario Debt Law enter debt settlement marketplace”.

Here is the link to this post:

http://blog.comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca/2015/08/occa-helps-ontario-debt-law-enter-debt-settlement-marketplace/

 

Let us review your debt settlement agreement

If you are an Ontario resident and you have signed an agreement with any firm that offers to eliminate your unsecured consumer debt for less than what you currently owe then I would invite you to provide me with a copy of your agreement.

Depending upon your particular circumstances you might be entitled to a refund of the monies that you have paid to a debt settlement service provider.

You are welcome to call me at 1 (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you can contact me via e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca

You are welcome to call Mark Silverthorn if you are an Ontario resident and you have signed an agreement with a firm offering to eliminated your debt for less than what you currently owe.

You are welcome to call Mark Silverthorn if you are an Ontario resident and you have signed an agreement with a firm offering to eliminate your debt for less than what you currently owe.

 

Contact me if you have any information about the activities of Ontario Debt Law and OCCA

 

I would also invite anyone with knowledge of the activities of Ontario Debt Law and OCCA to contact me.

 

Text of my article appearing in the September 21, 2015, paper edition of the Law Times

 

This article reprinted below appeared in the September 21, 2015, paper edition of the Law Times.  The URL for the Law Times is www.lawtimesnews.com.

 

SPEAKER’S CORNER

Questions raised about deptuy judge’s debt settlement activity

BY MARK SILVERTHORN

For Law Times

 

Some time in July of this year, an Ontario deptuy judge who sits in the central west region launched a new law firm, Ontario Debt Law, that offers debt settlement services to Ontario residents.

The law firm’s debt settlement agreement states that it can assign the law firm’s obligations under the agreement to OCCA Consumer Debt Relief Inc.  Brampton, Ont.-based OCCA has been one of the largest Canadian debt settlement firms over the past decade.  In 2014, OCCA claimed to have more than 12,000 clients.

Ontario Debt Law has been carrying on business since the beginning of July.  It is becoming increasingly apparent that such activities may create issues not only for Ontario’s legal community but also for the administration of justice in this province.

A letter on Ontario Debt Debt Law letterhead states that an Ontario lawyer described as a deputy judge owns and operates the firm.  An unsophisticated individual reading this marketing letter might think that entering into an agreement for legal services with Ontario Debt Law might be very advantageous because the lawyer operating it is a deputy judge.  The reference to a deputy judge might lead a potential client to think to conclude that the courts or the Ministry of the Attorney General approve or recommend the firm’s services.

The entrance of Ontario Debt Law into the Ontario debt settlement marketplace coincides with the new debt settlement regulatory regime that came into effect on July 1st.  Effective July 1, whenever an Ontario resident enters into a debt settlement agreement, there are significant restrictions on the fees where the debt settlement service provider is subject to the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.

A debt settlement firm cannot charge a client a penny in fees until a settlement is actually paid out.  Furthermore, the maximum fee with respect to a single debt is 10 percent of the amount owing as of the date the debt settlement agreement was signed.

The new regulatory regime, and in particular the significant restrictions on fees, is having a devastating impact on firms providing debt settlement services to Ontario residents.  The new regulatory regime for debt settlement firms does not apply to lawyers who can bring themselves under an exemption contained in the act.  Accordingly, it is much more attractive financially to provided debt settlement services in conjunction with a law firm than to do so on its own.

A marketing letter on Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead sates: “We are NOT a debt settlement firm!”  It would be accurate to say that Ontario Debt Law is not a firm licensed as a collection agency under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.  Ontario Debt Law does, however, offer services that fall within the definition of debt settlement services under the act.  There are also several confusing aspects to Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead.  The contact information, for example, is a mystery.  Several phone calls to the the local number on the law firm’s letterhead elicited a fax tone.  A phone call placed after regular business hours to the toll-free number listed on Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead led to a voicemail for a marketing firim called debthelpers.ca.

Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead states that its address is 188 Wilkinson Rd., Unit 2, Brampton, Ont.  On July 13, 2015,a photograph taken at that address reveals that the name on the door is not Ontario Debt Law but that of a Quick Connect Solutions.  A sign on the door at 188 Wilkinson Rd., Unit 2, advises Canada Post to deliver mail for that address to 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 1.  That is the address for OCCA.

Quick Connect Solutions’ web site describes the firm as offering telephony solutions to companies in the marketing, credit, collections, and debt purchasing industries.  The we site for debthelpers.ca includes the following statement: “Each company we work with is unique and offers several different programs.  One size-fit-all approaches will never help you regain your financial stability and achieve your goal of becoming debt free.”

OCCA and Quick Connect Solutions. in fact, have attracted the attention of the of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.  Following a CRTC investigation in 2013, OCCA and Quick Connect Solutions agreed to pay $69,000 and $11,000, respectively, in fines for making robocalls.

It is not easy for a member of the public to speak to a staff member at Ontario Debt Law.  Ontario Debt Law does not have a web site and would not appear to have much of a public presence at all.  A member of the public, however, will receive marketing materials from Ontario Debt Law after calling a toll-free number listed on OCCA’s web site and speaking with a counsellor.

A deputy judge’s recent entry into the Ontario debt settlement marketplace raises potential concerns.  It would be surprising if such activities were to enhance the public’s perception of either lawyers or judges.

 

Mark Silverthorn is a retired lawyer and the author of The Wolf At The Door:  What To Do When Collection Agencies Come Calling.  He is also the founder of Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc., a firm providing practical advice to consumers with unsecured consumer debt problems.  Its web site is comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca

 

 

 

Indebted consumers often receive poor financial advice from those holding themselves out as helping them

 

In 2010 my book The Wolf At The Door:  What To Do When Collection Agencies Come Calling (2010), published by McClelland & Stewart, was in bookstores across Canada. As part of the research for this book I mystery shopped about a dozen organizations in the Greater Toronto Area holding themselves as helping consumers with unsecured debt problems.  For lack of a better term I will refer to debt settlement firms, credit counselling agencies, debt consultants, and bankruptcy trustees as debt resolution service providers.

WATD(2)bookcover one column wide (1)

 

Response where limitation period was relevant

I provided my mystery shoppers with special pens that could surreptitioulsy record conversations.  I also provided my mystery shoppers with various scenarios to persent to debt resolution service providers.

One of the scenarios these mystery shoppers presented was that the date of last payment on all their unsecured consumer debts were more than three years ago.   I wanted to test these organizations’ response to a scenario where a consumer might be better off simply taking advantage of Ontario’s two-year limitation period for simple contract debt with respect to any unpaid unsecured consumer accounts.

An Ontario resident might have $60,000 in unsecured consumer debt in circumstances where the date of last payment on these debts was more than two years ago.  In this scenario, the consumer would have the option of not paying a nickel to their creditors.  The fact that an Ontario resident had an unpaid account, however, would show up on their credit report for seven years following the date of their last payment.

I was shocked when I listened to the recordings of these interviews.  As a general rule, the people who met with my mystery shoppers either had no idea about the significance of Ontario’s two-year statute of limitations, they denied its application to the mystery shopper’s particular situation, or they informed the mystery shopper that the fact that Ontario’s statute of limitations had expired was of no benefit whatsoever to their situation.

 

Free debt consultation or sales pitch? 

All of the organizations who were mystery shopped as part of my research for The Wolf At The Door offered a free consultation.  When I listened to the recordings provided by my mystery shoppers it was evident that the firm’s representative was highly motivated to encourage the mystery shopper to sign on the dotted line for a debt resolution option available from their organization.

 

A system that is broken

 

1.       A system that is rife with conflicts of interest

The debt resolution service provider industry has a huge problem. And that problem is conflicts of interest.  As a general rule, these organizations only offer one or two debt resolution options from the toolbox of the six to ten debt resolution options that might be available to a particular consumer.

When a consumer drowning in debt speaks with a representative from a debt settlement firm, a credit counselling agency, or a bankruptcy trustee that organization is very limited in terms of the range of solutions it can offer to the consumer.  It is only human nature for these organizations to put the debt resolution option offered by their firm in the best light possible.  These organizations only receive financial compensation if an individual decides to proceed using a service offered by that debt resolution service provider.

 

2.    A system where consumers often choose less-than-optimal solutions

Consumers who reach out to a debt resolution service provider are typically vulnerable individuals.  They may be facing major issues: missed bill payments, collection calls, lawsuits, and sometimes wage garnishments.  It is common for these individuals to sign up for a debt resolution option with the first organization they contact.  These consumers might not be aware that in some instances the person they are discussing a debt resolution option with is essentially a commissioned salesperson.

Two factors contribute to consumers choosing less than optimal debt resolution options.  Firstly, the average Canadian knows very little about debt resolution options.  Secondly, debt resolution service providers often sell their debt resolution option to the exclusion of other alternatives. This cocktail often results in a terrible hangover for the consumer:  a debt resolution option which is not optimal for the consumer in their particular circumstances.

 

More robust role for government and government regulators needed

Governments and government regulators should take a more active role in protecting vulnerable consumers from signing up for debt resolution options which might not be in the consumer’s best interests in a particular situation.  Firstly, government websites should offer detailed descriptions of various options available to a consumer.  These should not only be educational but also they should be balanced.  Secondly, before a consumer makes a financial commitment with respect ot a debt resolution option–a debt settlement agreement offered by a debt settlement firm, a debt management plan offered by a credit counselling agency or a consumer proposal or personal bankruptcy– they should be required to either read a government-approved document or watch a government- approved video describing the particular debt resolution option in detail as well as alternative debt resolution options.

 

At my firm Comprehensive Debt Solutions, we are not captive of a particular debt resolution option.  If you would like to learn more about your various options for dealing with your debt please feel fee to contact me.  You might find that paying a modest amount to speak to me for 15 to 30 minutes is the best money you ever spent in your life!  Feel free to contact our office to arrange a consultation.  You can call our office at 1 (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513 or send me an e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca

You might want to contact our office and schedule a telephone consultation with Mark Silverthorn to learn more about your options for dealing with your current debt situation.

You might want to contact our office and schedule a telephone consultation with Mark Silverthorn to learn more about your options for dealing with your current debt situation.

 

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When should we be concerned about the relationship between debt consultants and bankruptcy trustees?

I can empathize with a bankruptcy trustee who not only has to compete for revenues with other trustees but also credit counselling agencies and debt settlement firms.

I can empathize with a bankruptcy trustee who not only has to compete for revenues with other trustees but also credit counselling agencies and debt settlement firms.

 

I do not envy bankruptcy trustees. Firstly, they have to spend a significant amount of money to run a financially viable business. While they receive compensation for facilitating Canadians making a consumer proposal or filing for personal bankruptcy many trustees feel that it is necessary to spend substantial sums on advertising. A trustee is competing for revenues with not only other trustees but also credit counselling agencies—most of whom benefit from favourable tax status–and debt settlement firms.

Secondly, a trustee is at a competitive disadvantage in terms of the number of people who might pay for their services. A consumer wishing to enter into credit counselling or hire a debt settlement firm is not legally required to meet with them in person. In contrast, bankruptcy trustees must meet in person with a person considering making a consumer proposal or filing for personal bankruptcy. Therefore, a credit counselling firm or a debt settlement firm could operate across Canada from a single office. Because a bankruptcy trustee can only make a consumer proposal or file a bankruptcy on behalf of someone they have met in person then a trustee’s revenue base faces major geographic limitations.

Finally, no one wants to speak to a trustee. The last person a person struggling with debt wants to speak with is a bankruptcy trustee. Canadians would rather speak to anyone—and I literally mean anyone–advertising “Avoid Bankruptcy”. A consumer with financial problems is more likely to contact a debt consultant, a credit counselling agency, or a debt settlement firm before they contact a bankruptcy trustee.

 

Some debt consultants act as significant funnels of referrals to bankruptcy trustees

Bankruptcy trustees across the country employ a number of different strategies for inviting consumers to contact their office and learn more about the benefits of making a consumer proposal or filing for personal bankruptcy. It is common for many trustees to spend a substantial amount of money on traditional advertising. Many trustees spend a significant amount of money on their website and internet advertising. Finally, some, but not all, trustees may generate a sizeable number of files from referrals from debt consultants.

 

Diverse group of debt consultants operating in Canada

Debt consultants come in all shapes and sizes. They provide advice or services to consumers struggling with debt. Some consultants have one or more licenses. Other debt consultants are not licensed. I am a debt consultant.  I provide advice for a fee to consumers who are struggling with unsecured consumer debt. The largest debt consulting firm in Canada is Four Pillars which has approximately 50 offices across Canada.

There is nothing inherently inappropriate with a bankruptcy trustee having a relationship with a debt consultant that results in generating files for a bankruptcy trustee. In certain circumstances, however, a trustee’s relationship with a debt consultant can violate the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada’s Code of Ethics for Trustees in Bankruptcy. It is not fair that bankruptcy trustees who scrupulously comply with the Code of Ethics as it relates to debt consultants should be at competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis a trustee who has an improper relationship with a debt consultant.

 

Improper for trustees to provide compensation or benefits for referrals

It is a contravention of the Code of Ethics of Bankruptcy Trustees for a trustee to pay, directly or indirectly, a fee, compensation or a benefit in return for a referral.

 

Trustees shall not encourage anyone to engage in any conduct which is illegal or dishonest with respect to the bankruptcy and insolvency process

It is a contravention of the Code of Ethics of Bankruptcy Trustees for a trustee to “assist, advise or encourage” any person to engage in conduct which is illegal or dishonest in connection to the bankruptcy and insolvency process.

It would be fair to say that the majority of trustees in Canada do not engage in conduct which would come close to violating the Code of Ethics of Bankruptcy Trustees. Unfortunately, there are some bankruptcy firms whose conduct as it relates to debt consultants might constitute a violation of the Code of Ethics or warrant an investigation by the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy.

 

Link to Code of Ethics of Bankruptcy Trustees

Here is a link to the website where you can read the Code of Ethics of Bankruptcy Trustees.

 

Contact Mark Silverthorn if you have information about inappropriate relationships between debt consultants and trustees

Anyone who has information about inappropriate relationships between debt consultants and bankruptcy trustees is welcome to contact me at (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you can contact me via e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.

 

If you believe that you have information about an inappropriate relationship between a debt consultant and a bankruptcy trustee then you are invited to contact me.

If you believe that you have information about an inappropriate relationship between a debt consultant and a bankruptcy trustee then you are invited to contact me.

 

 

Game changer: Credit Counselling Society enters debt settlement marketplace

 

This weekend I was doing a google search for the phrase “debt settlement” and I ended up on a webpage for the Credit Counselling Society.   This organization, headquartered in New Westminster, British Columbia, is one of the four titans of the Canadian non-profit credit counselling industry.  This organization has offices in every province west of Quebec.  According to its website, www.nomoredebts.org, the firm has 22 offices across a large part of Canada.

I almost fell of my chair when I read their webpage titled DEBT SETTLEMENT IN CANADA/ PROGRAM OVERVIEW.  You can find this webpage reproduced below.

 

CCSDebtSettlementpage

 

 

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This webpage appears on www.nomoredebts.org, the website for Credit Counselling Society, one of the four largest non-profit credit counselling agencies in Canada.  Purple circle has been added.

 

 

Credit Counselling Society has the potential to become the largest provider of debt settlement services in Canada

Because of it substantial financial resources and its 22 offices across Canada Credit Counselling Society has the potential to become Canada’s dominanat debt settlement services provider.  Its advertising budget is greater than all of the other debt settlement service providers in Canada combined.

 

 

Creditors support non-profit credit counselling agencies offering Debt Management Plans

The creditor community likes non-profit credit counselling agencies because they are essentially warm and fuzzy collection agencies.  Non-profit credit counselling agencies assist Canadian creditors recover tens of millions of dollars each year.  When a consumer completes a Debt Management Plan with a non-profit credit counselling agency the major banks and credit card companies recover 80 percent to 90 percent of monies owing to them–depending upon the amount of the “fair share contribution” a particular creditor pays to a non-profit credit counselling agency.

 

 

The credtior community is not favourably disposed towards debt settlement service providers

The creditor community, however, does not like debt settlement service providers.  Debt settlement involves a consumer making a one-time lump sum settlement–for an amount signficantly less than the current balance owing–as settlement in full.  It is common for creditors to agree to settlements where the consumer pays anywhere between 20 percent and 50 percent of the outstanding balance.

 

 

Creditors would prefer non-profit credit counselling agencies restrict themselves to providing Debt Management Plans

The creditor community would prefer that non-profit credit counselling agencies stick to enrolling Canadian debtors in Debt Management Plans and recovering 80 to 90 percent of monies owing to creditors.  The creditor community does not look favourably on debt settlement service providers–of any type–because creditors are only recovering 20 to 50 percent of monies owing to creditors.

 

 

Creditor community may threaten to stop making “voluntary donations” to the Credit Counselling Society

I was surprised to see the Credit Counselling Society openly advertising the organization’s debt settlement services on its website because this could invite a devastating reaction from Canada’s creditor community.  The majority of Credit Counselling Society’s revenues come from Canada’s big banks and major credit card companies in the form of “fair share contributions”.

Frankly, I am going to be surprised if the creditor community does not threaten to stop making fair share contributions to the Credit Counselling Society if it does not immediately stop not only providing debt settlement services, but also offering debt settlement services.  The risk of the loss of fair share contributions from major Canadian creditors should give Scott Hannah, the President and CEO of the Credit Counselling Society, cause for concern.

 

 

Canada’s Big Four non-profit credit counselling agencies

The vast majority of Debt Management Plans in this country are done through four major firms, all of which are non-profit credit counselling agencies:

  • Credit Counselling Society
  • Credit Canada Debt Solutions
  • Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada Inc.
  • Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada Inc.

Debt Management Plans are financially lucrative to firms that provide them in large volumes.  These four firms all run high-volume Debt Management Plan operations. Furthermore, these firms all compete aggressively with one another for Debt Management Plan clients.  Finally, these four firms compete with bankruptcy trustees and firms that offer debt settlement services.

 

 

Possibibility that the other major non-profit credit counselling agencies may enter Canadian debt settlement marketplace

There is a real possibility that if the Credit Counselling Society is advertising its debt settlement services to Canadians six months from now that one or more of Canada’s largest non-profit credit counselling agencies will decide to follow suit.

 

 

Contact me if you have any information about a credit counselling agency offering debt settlement services

I would invite anyone with information about a credit counselling agency offering debt settlement services to contact me.  You are welcome to call me at (866) 996-9941 or at (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you are welcome to contact me, via e-mail, at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca

 

You are welcome to call Mark Silverthorn if you have any information about a credit counselling agency offering debt settlement services.

You are welcome to call Mark Silverthorn if you have any information about a credit counselling agency offering debt settlement services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Life Debt Solution: Debt settlement firm operating illegally in Ontario?

 

Last Friday I was returning home from a day at the CNE when my girlfriend noticed a sign on a traffic pole which read  “Are You In Debt? 905-783-1922”.  My girlfriend asked my daughter to take a photo of the sign with her cellphone.  This photograph can be found below.

AreyouinDebt

This photograph was taken on Friday, August 21st on Hurontario Street in Mississauga. 

 

My initial reaction was this sign was an ad for a debt settlement firm

On our drive home from the Port Credit Go Station to Kitchener we would pass literally hundreds of signs.  This was the only sign that we photographed on our drive home.  My girlfriend had the presence of mind to notice that this sign might have an interesting story behind it.  When I saw this sign my initial reaction was that it was an ad for a debt settlement firm.

 

Phone number belongs to firm called New Life Debt Solution

After returning home I googled (905) 783-1922 and I learned that it was the phone number for a Mississauga-based firm called New Life Debt Solution.  This firm’s website is www.newlifedebt.com.  According to the firm’s website the firm offers debt settlement services.

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This screenshot is taken from the top portion of New Life Debt Solution’s webpage titled SERVICES AND SOLUTIONS.  On this page the firm clearly states that it offers debt settlement services.

 

 

Three locations listed in Ontario

On the website’s LOCATIONS webpage three Ontario locations are listed.

Locations

According to its website, New Life Debt Solution is operating in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia.

 

The firm’ website lists its Toronto location as 2898 Weston Road.  Earlier this week I had a meeting in the GTA.  At the conclusion of my meeting I drove to 2898 Weston Road to take a photograph of New Life Debt Solution’s Toronto office.  The photograph which appears below is a photograph of that address.

2898WestonRoadNewLifeDebtSolution

This is a photograph of 2898 Weston Road, the address listed as the Toronto location for New Life Debt Solution.

 

 

New Life Debt Solution does not possess an Ontario collection agency license

Under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act a firm cannot offer debt settlement services to Ontario residents unless it is licensed as a collection agency under the Act or it is exempt under the Act.  To the best of my knowledge New Life Debt Solution is not exempt under the Act.

Earlier this week I contacted the Ontario Government and I received written confirmation that New Life Debt Solution did not possess an Ontario collection agency license.

NewLifeDebtSolutionnotanONcollectionagency

This week the Ontario Government has provided me with written confirmation that New Life Debt Solution does not possess an Ontario collection agency license.

 

 

Mystery shopping call to New Life Debt Solution

At approximately 6:00 p.m. this evening one of my operatives called New Life Debt Solution’s toll free number, 1 (866) 210-9262.  This call was on speakerphone and I listened to the call and I made detailed notes during the call.

My operative–who I will simply refer to as Brenda–started this phone call by asking if she had reached New Life Debt Solution.  The man answering the phone replied yes.

At the beginning of the phone conversation the man clearly indicated that New Life Debt Solution offered debt settlement services.  Brenda stated that she owed $15,000 in unsecured consumer debt.

Based on my detailed notes taken during the phone call the following exchange took place concerning collection calls and the risk of being sued:

Brenda:  So I stop making payments to my creditors and I pay you instead?

Male:      Yes.

Brenda:  Will I get collection calls from creditors?

Male:      Absolutely not.  Collection calls will stop.  If anyone is trying to collect money from you the calls will stop immediately.

Brenda:  But what if they try and sue me?

Male:      Absolutely not.  We will protect you.  They cannot do anything.

Later in the call Brenda asked about how much it would cost her to hire New Life Debt Solution to provide debt settlement services for her.

Brenda:  Do you know what my payments would be to you for $15,000?

Male:     Approximately $100 per month.

Brenda: How many months?

Male:     60 months, 5 years, $100 per month for 60 months

Brenda: So $6,000 total?

Male:     Yes.

Near the end of this phone conversation Brenda asked the representative from New Life Debt Solution to e-mail her a copy of the firm’s debt settlement agreement which the representative declined to do.

 

Illegal for a debt settlement provider to charge fees prior to a settlement being paid out

Unless a debt settlement service provider is exempt from the Act, it is illegal for a debt settlement service provider to charge a penny in fees to an Ontario resident until such time that monies have been paid to a creditor under a settlement.  Accordingly, it would appear that New LIfe Debt Solution’s free structure contravenes the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.

Under the Act a consumer has the right to a 100 percent refund of any fees paid where the debt settlement service provider is in contravention of the Act.

 

 

New Life Debt Solution Inc. would appear to be a new player

Based upon a corporate search of New Life Debt Solution Inc., the company would apear to be a new entrant into the Canadian debt settlement marketplace.  According to a corporate search for New Life Debt Solution Inc. the firm was incorporated in British Columbia on June 23, 2015, about eight weeks ago.  The corporate search lists one director, Tahir Ahmad Malik.  The mailing address for the corporation is listed as 208-9200 120th Street, Surrey, British Columbia,  V3V 4B7.

The company’s website indicates that it has offices in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta.

 

Complaint to be filed with the Ontario Government

Tomorrow I plan on filing a complaint with the Ontario Government against New Life Debt Solution.  It would appear that the firm is offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents in contravention of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.

 

Contact me if you have paid any monies to New Life Debt Solution

I would invite anyone who has entered into a contract or given any money to New Life Debt Solution to call me at (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you can contact me via e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.

If you are an Ontario resident and you have entered into a debt settlement agreement with CCDR then I would invite you to contact me.

If you are an Ontario resident and you have paid any monies to New Life Debt Solution I would invite you to contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to file a complaint to the Ontario Government against a collection agency or a debt settlement firm

 

It is possible to file a complaint against a collection agency or a debt settlement firm to the Ontario Government. In order for you to file a complaint it will be necessary for you to go through a two-step process.

 

Step One:   Send a written letter of complaint to the business

The Ontario Government will decline to process your complaint unless you first write a letter of complaint to the business in question.  In this letter you should describe the nature of your complaint against your business.  Furthermore, you should also state what actions by the business, if any, would resolve your complaint.

 

Step Two:   Submit a completed Complaint Form to the Ontario Government

Once you have made your written complaint to the business in question then you can file a written complaint to the Ontario Government using the Ontario Government’s Complaint Form which can be found online at the following link:

https://www.consumerbeware.mgs.gov.on.ca/esearch/compform/english/complaint.jsp

You can also find a copy of this 4-page Complaint Form reproduced at the end of this post.

You should also include copies of any relevant documents in connection with your complaint.  For example, if you are complaining about the conduct of a debt settelement firm, you might want to include copies of your debt settlement agreement as well as copies of correspondence between yourself and the debt settlement firm.

You have a number of options in terms of how you submit your Complaint Form.  You can submit your completed Complaint Form onlineYou can also print a Complaint Form and then submit it via e-mail, by fax, or by regular mail:

  • via e-mail to consumer@ontario.ca
  •  by fax, to (416) 326-8665
  • by mail to the following address:

Ministry of Government and Consumer Services

Consumer Protection Branch

Box 480

1201 Wilson Avenue, Building A

North York, ON  M3M 1J8

 

 

What happens to your complaint after it is submitted?

After your complaint is forwarded to the Ontario Government it will be be processed.  Complaints are input into the Ontario Government’s computer system and the complaint will be assigned a unique file number.   Complaints go through triage to determine the priority in which a particular complaint should be dealt with.  Those complaints which are deemded sufficiently serious are forwarded to an Investigations Unit.  Complaints alleging that a business is contravening Ontario law is more likely tobe  forwarded to an Investigations Unit.

 

Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act and Regulation 74

The conduct of both collection agencies and debt settlement firms is governed by the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act and Regulation 74 enacted pursuant to the Act.  A complaint to the Ontario Government against a collection agency or a debt settlement firm alleging a violation of either the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act or Regulation 74 will likely be treated more seriously than a complaint which does not involve conduct contravening these provisions.

You can find the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act at the following link:

http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90c14

 

 

Contact me if you would like to make a complaint against a collection agency or a debt settlement firm

You are welcome to call me at (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513 if you have made a complaint, or you wish to make a complaint, regarding a collection agency or a debt settlement firm.  You can also contact me, via e-mail, at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.

 

You are welcome to contact Mark Silverthorn if you have, or if you wish to file, a complaint against a collection agency or a debt settlement firm.

You are welcome to contact Mark Silverthorn if you have, or if you wish to file, a complaint against a collection agency or a debt settlement firm.

 

 

Complaint Form

The 4-page document reproduced below is the Complaint Form that must be completed by an Ontario resident who wishes to make a complaint against a collection agency or a debt settlement firm.  The Ontario Government will decline to process a Complaint Form unless a consumer first writes a letter of complaint to the business in question.

 

p1ComplaintForm

p2ComplaintForm

 

p3ComplaintForm

 

p4ComplaintForm

 

 

 

 

 

OCCA helps Deputy Judge Serafini and Ontario Debt Law enter debt settlement marketplace

 

Sometime shortly after June 30th of this year a new player, Ontario Debt Law (ODL), entered the debt settlement marketplace.  According to the firm’s letterhead, Ontario Debt Law’s address is in the same one-storey building as OCCA Consumer Debt Relief Inc., one of the largest debt settlement firms operating in Canada over the past decade.  OCCA’s 2014 submission to the Ontario Government states that the firm has 12,000 clients.

OCCASignage188WilkinsonRoadBramptonON

OCCA’s office is located at 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 1, Brampton, Ontario.  The address appearing on Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead is 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 2, Brampton, Ontario.

 

Oakville lawyer Angelo Serafini is the owner of Ontario Debt Law

The owner of Ontario Debt Law is lawyer Angelo Serafini. According to the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Lawyer and Paralegal Directory, Angelo Serafini practices law at an office located at 447 Speers Road, Unit 202, Oakville, Ontario.  In a letter dated August 12, 2015, on Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead, sent to a potential client Angelo Serafini is described as “currently a Deputy Judge”.

 

Timing of the emergence of Ontario Debt Law

The entrance of Ontario Debt Law into the Ontario debt settlement marketplace coincides with the new debt settlement regulatory regime that came into effect on July 1st of this year.   Effective July 1, 2015, whenever an Ontario resident enters into a debt settlement agreement there are significant restrictions on fees that can be charged whenever the debt settlement service provider is subject to the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.

A debt settlement firm cannot charge a debt settlement client a penny in fees until such time that a settlement is actually paid out.  Furthermore, the maximum fee that can be charged with respect to a single debt is 10 percent of the amount of the debt as of the date the debt settlement agreement was signed.

The new regulatory regime, and in particular the significant restrictions regarding fees, will have and is having, a devastating impact on firms providing debt settlement services to Ontario residents.  The new regulatory regime for debt settlement firms do not apply to lawyers who can bring themselves within an exemption contained in the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.  Accordingly, it is much more attractive financially for OCCA to provide debt settlement services in conjunction with a law firm than to do so on its own.

 

 

Ontario Debt Law is flying beneath the radar

Some industry observers might conclude that Ontario Debt Law is making a conscious effort to carry on business below the radar.  The law firm does not have a website.  There is no reference to Ontario Debt Law on Angelo Serafini’s LinkedIn Profile.  Neither is there any reference to Ontario Debt Law on the website for Mr. Serafini’s Oakville law practice, www.serafinilaw.ca.  Finally, as of August 13, 2015, there was no signage for Ontario Debt Law at 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 2, in Brampton, Ontario, the address appearing on the law firm’s letterhead.

 

My discovery of the existence of Ontario Debt Law

The website for OCCA Consumer Debt Relief Inc. is www.occa.ca.  Website visitors on this site struggling with unsecured consumer debt are encouraged to call a toll free number, 1 (866) 873-6222.

OCCAhoempagetopportion

Visitors to OCCA’s website, www.occa.ca, are invited to call a toll free number, 1 (866) 873-6222.

 

This past week an Ontario resident, Jane Doe–not her real name–spoke to me after calling this toll free number on OCCA’s website.  Shortly after calling this toll free number, and speaking with a counsellor, Jane Doe received an e-mail from her counsellor–containing 11 pages of documents, including a debt settlement agreement–not from OCCA, but from an organization called Ontario Debt Law.

At the very end of this post you can read these 11 pages, in their entirety, that Ontario Debt Law sent to Jane Doe earlier this week.

One of the more interesting set of provisions in the Ontario Debt Law debt settlement agreement are those indicating that Ontario Debt Law can outsource a number of its obligations under the contract to OCCA.

 

 

One-page letter dated August 12, 2105, on Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead sent to Jane Doe

The first page of the 11 pages sent to Jane Doe earlier this past week is reproduced below.

 

 

p1ODLpackagemarkedup

This one page letter on Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead dated August 12, 2015, was sent to Jane Doe, an Ontario resident.  The address on this letter on Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead is 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 2, Brampton, Ontario.  Certain text on this page has been highlighted.  The author of this letter is Monica Baci.

 

 

Odd information appearing on Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead

When I tried to fact check the contact information appearing at the bottom of Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead I was surprised by what I found.  This can be summarized as follows:

  • The local number which appears at the bottom of Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead is always answered by a fax tone
  • The toll free number which appears at the bottom of Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead is the phone number for a business called DebtHelpers.ca

 

Photograph of 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 2, Brampton, Ontario

On Thursday, August 13th I attended in person at 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 1 and Unit 2, Brampton, Ontario, in order to take some photographs.  The photograph which appears below is a photograph of 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 2, Brampton, Ontario, the same address listed as Ontario Debt Law’s address on the law firm’s letterhead.

 

v2Unit2188WilkonsonRoad

This photograph was taken on Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 2, Brampton, Ontario.  The name which appears on the door is QuickConnectSolutions.com.  Behind this door appears to be a wall made of cardboard.  This door contains a sign advising Canada Post to deliver mail addressed to Unit 2, 188 Wilkinson Road, to Unit 1, 188 Wilkinson Road.  This address, 188 Wilkonson Road, Unit 2, in Brampton is listed as the address for Ontario Debt Law on marketing material sent to an Ontario resident earlier this week.

 

Ontario Debt Law, Quick Connect Solutions and DebtHelpers.ca all list 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 2, Brampton, Ontario, as their firm’s address

Ontario Debt Law lists 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 2, Brampton, Ontario as the firm’s address on the firm’s letterhead.   The websites for both Quick Connect Solutions and DebtHelpers.ca also list 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 2, Brampton, Ontario, as the address for their firms.

QuickCollectSolutionsAboutUS

According to the ABOUT US webpage on www.quickconnectsolutions.com, the firm offers telephony solutions to firms in the marketing, credit, collection, and debt purchasing industries.

 

 

MarkedupDebthelpscaAboutwebpage

According to the ABOUT page on www.DebtHelpers.ca the firm does marketing for a number of firms offering a variety of programs designed to assist consumers experiencing debt problems.

 

 

OCCA and Quick Connect Solutions have run afoul of CRTC because of use of robocalls

In 2013, following an investigation by the CRTC into the use of robocalls, OCCA and Quick Connect Solutions agreed to pay $69,000 and $11,000, respectively, in fines.  Ontario Debt Law not only operates from the same business address as Quick Connect Solutions but its retainer agreement with consumers states it can assign any of its obligations under the agreement to OCCA.

 

 

Nine questions for Angelo Serafini and Ed Portelli, President of OCCA

 

After researching Ontario Debt Law and its relationship with OCCA this past week I have nine questions for Angelo Serafini and Ed Portelli, the President of OCCA.

 

1.  Is it appropriate for Ontario Debt Law’s marketing material to refer to Angelo Serafini, the owner of Ontario Debt Law, as a Deputy Judge?

Earlier this week Jane Doe, an Ontario resident, received 11 pages of documents from Ontario Debt Law.  The first of these 11 pages is a one-page letter appearing on Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead.  You will find this one-page letter reproduced below.

The first two sentences of this letter on Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead read as follows:

Ontario Debt Law (ODL) is a Canadian law firm that is owned and operated by Angelo Serafini, J.D.  Angelo has been practising law for over 30 years and is currently a Deputy Judge.

Is it appropriate for a lawyer who is a Deputy Judge to state that he is a Deputy Judge on the firm’s marketing materials?  The fact that Ontario Debt Law’s marketing materials says that Ontario Debt Law is owned by Angelo Serafini who is currently a Deputy Judge might lead a potential client to conclude that Ontario Debt Law’s services are approved or recommended by the Ontario courts or the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.

 

2.   Is it misleading for OCCA’s website to advise consumers to avoid debt settlement when OCCA is actively encouraging website visitors to enter into a debt settlement agreement with Ontario Debt Law?

OCCA’s website contains a webpage titled “Avoid Debt Settlement”.  Anyone reading this webpage might conclude that consumers should not hire a firm to provide debt settlement services.  In fact, OCCA Debt Relief Inc. possesses an Ontario collection agency license which permits it to provide debt settlement services.  Furthermore, website visitors who call the toll free number appearing on OCCA’s website speak to a counsellor whose job it is to encourage the caller to enter into a debt settlement settlement agreement with Ontario Debt Law.  Finally, the debt settlement agreement from Ontario Debt Law which is sent to a potential client states that Ontario Debt Law will outsource some of its obligations under the agreement to OCCA.

 

3.     Is the marketing letter used by Ontario Debt Law misleading when it states “We are NOT a debt settlement firm!”

The Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act defines “debt settlement services” in paragraph 1(c) of the Act as follows:

“debt settlement services”   means offering or undertaking to act for a debtor in arrangements or negotiations with the debtor’s creditors or receiving money from a debtor for distribution to the debtor’s creditors, where the services are provided in consideration of a fee, commission or other remuneration that is payable by the debtor.

It is true that Ontario Debt Law is not a debt settlement firm which is licensed under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.  However, Ontario Debt Law does offer debt settlement services to Ontario residents.  Furthermore, the agreement which Ontario Debt Law sends to potential clients states that some of the services offered under the agreement will be performed by OCCA.

Some industry observers might find the statement “We are NOT a debt settlement firm!” on Ontario Debt Law’s one-page marketing letter to be misleading.

 

4.  Why doesn’t Ontario Debt Law have appropriate signage for its office located at 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 2, in Brampton, Ontario?

The address listed for Ontario Debt Law on a letter dated August 12, 2015, sent to an Ontario resident earlier this week is 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 2, Brampton, Ontario.  When I attended at that address on August 13, 2015, the signage on the door at this address was not for Ontario Debt Law, but for a firm called QuickConnectSolutions.com.

When I visited 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 1 and Unit 2, on August 13th I could not find any signage for Ontario Debt Law.  There is, however, signage in the vicinity of Unit 1 and Unit 2 of 188 Wilkinson Road, Bramtpon, Ontario, advising Canada Post to deliver mail addressed for 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 2, to 188 Wilkinson Road, Unit 1.

NoticeforCanadaPostremailforUnit2188WilkinsonRoad

On August 13, 2015, when I visited 188 Wilkinson Road, Brampton, Ontario, I found this sign on the door for Unit 2 and on the door immediately to the right of Unit 1. 

 

5.   It is appropriate for the toll free phone number which appears on Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead to be that–not for Ontario Debt Law–but for a marketing firm DebtHelpers.ca?

 

6.   Is it appropriate for Ontario Debt Law to share office space with Quick Connect Solutions and DebtHelpers.ca and do they have any concerns about the security of clients’ confidential information?

Quick Connect Solutions provides telephony solutions to firms in the marketing, credit, collection and debt purchasing industries.  DebtHelpers.ca is a firm that provides marketing services for a number of firms that provide a variety of programs for consumers experiencing debt problems.  Is it appropriate for Ontario Debt Law to be sharing office space with Quick Connect Solutions and DebtHelpers.ca?  Does this arrangement raise any concerns about the security of the firm’s client information?

 

7.   Who is Moncia Baci’s employer?

Earlier in this post you can read a one-page letter dated August 12, 2015, on Ontario Debt Law’s letterhead sent to an Ontario residient.  The person whose name appears as the author of this letter is Monica Baci.  Who is Monica Baci’s employer?

According to Monica Baci’s LinkedIn Profile she is an employee of OCCA.

MonicaBaciLinkedInProfile

 

Is it appropriate for the name of an OCCA employee to appear as the author of a letter on Ontario Debt Law letterhead?

 

8.   Does Ontario Debt Law have a credible legal opinion confirming that its relationship with OCCA does not contravene any of the Rules of Professional Conduct governing lawyers in Ontario?

Earlier this week I came into possession of a copy of an agreement Ontario Debt Law is sending to prospective clients in Ontario.  The document informs potential clients that some of the services offered under the agreement would be performed by OCCA which is not a law firm.  Only time will tell whether or not this business model will attract scrutiny from not only those responsible for regulating debt settlement firms but also those responsible for regulating the conduct of lawyers in Ontario.

 

9.   Is Ontario Debt Law’s entrance into the Ontario debt settlement marketplace bringing the administration of justice in Ontario into disrepute?

Will the public’s perception of lawyers and the administration of justice be prejudiced by the activiteis of Ontario Debt Law and its existing business relationship with OCCA?

 

 

Opportunity for comments from Angelo Serafini and Ed Portelli

Angelo Serafini declined the opportunity to be interviewed in connection with this post.  Ed Portelli agreed to meet with me but he requested that any comments he  made during the interview were “off the record”.

 

 

Invitation to contact Mark Silverthorn if you have been in communication with marketing representatives from Ontario Debt Law

If you live in Canada and you have received documentation from Ontario Debt Law then I would invite you to contact me at 1 (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513.  Furthermore, if you have spoken to a marketing representative from Ontario Debt Law and you have recorded the telephone conversation then I would invite you to contact me.  Alternatively, you are welcome to send me an e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.

 

 

Copy of documentation sent by Ontario Debt Law to an Ontario resident on August 12, 2015

 

On August 12, 2015, an Ontario resident received 11 pages of documents from Ontario Debt Law after calling the toll free number on OCCA’s website and requesting information about its services.  These 11 pages are reproduced below.  Some content has been highlighted.

 

p1ODLpackagemarkedup

p2ODLpackage

 

p3ODLpackage

 

p4ODLpackage

 

p5ODLpackage

 

p6package

 

p7ODLpackage

p8ODLpackage

p9ODLpackage

p11ODLpackage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saskatchewan-based CCDR stops accepting debt settlement clients from Ontario

 

In my most recent post on this blog, dated August 2nd, I wrote about a Saskatchewan-based debt settlement firm, Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc. (CCDR).  This firm is licensed as a collection agency in both Saskatchewan and in Ontario. In my previous blog I indicated that on August 2nd I filed a formal complaint with the Ontario Government against CCDR.

That complaint was based upon questions I had as to whether or not CCDR satisfied certain legal obligations under Ontario law for a firm providing debt settlement services to Ontario residents.  More specifically, I had questions as to whether or not CCDR was negotiating settlements illegally on behalf of Ontario residents because it did not employ any full-time licensed collectors working from its registered office in Kitchener, Ontario.  I also raised concerns whether or not CCDR’s Ontario office, located in a Regus corporate business centre, satisfied the permanent Ontario office requirement in the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.

 

 

Reaction from CCDR to my recent blog posts

My August 2nd post on this blog and my LinkedIn post, dated August 2, 2015, on the same topic generated a strong reaction from Greg Roberts, one of the owners of CCDR.  On my Linkedin post on the same topic one can find the following comment from Greg Roberts:

CommentGregRobertsresponseLAug222015LinkedInpost

 

 

Invitation to Greg Roberts to appear together on talk radio program

I would welcome the opportunity to have Greg Roberts air any concerns regarding my recent posts in a public forum. To that end I would be happy to be a guest–together with Greg Roberts–on a radio talk show.  This would provide Greg Roberts with ample opportunity to respond to issues which I have raised on social media about CCDR over the past week.

 

According to this screenshot from ask.me Greg Roberts, of Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc., is a Saskatchewan resident.

Greg Roberts has described Mark Silverthorn on social media as an “unprofessional coward”

 

 

Accordingly, earlier today I sent an e-mail to Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc. (CCDR) inviting Greg Roberts to join me in participating on a radio talk show.

August92015emailMStoGregRobertsradioappearance

 

 

CCDR is advising the public it “no longer” offers debt settlement services to Ontario residents

One of the questions I would like to ask Greg Roberts is why–less than a week after I made my formal complaint to the Ontario Government against his firm–CCDR is advising the public that it “no longer” offers debt settlement services to Ontario residents.

This week I was given an e-mail dated August 7, 2015, in which a representative from CCDR advises an Ontario resident “we no longer accept clients in the Ontario region”.  Here is a copy of this e-mail.

August72015gmailCCDRnoservicestoONresidents

 

What are CCDR’s long-term plans for offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents?

Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc. (CCDR) possesses an Ontario collection agency license and, therefore, it is legally permitted to provide debt settlement services to Ontario residents.  For some reason, this week CCDR is declining to offer debt settlement services to Ontario residents.  Some might wonder what are CCDR’s long term plans in connection with offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents?  Is the firm going to change its existing business model which might involve a signficant expenditure on its part?  Alternatively, is the firm considering withdrawing from the Ontario debt settlement marketplace for a period of time–or perhaps permanently?  Might there be a third option CCDR is considering?

 

Copies of debt settlement agreements with Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc.

If you are an Ontario resident and you have entered into a debt settlement agreement with Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc. (CCDR) then I would like to speak with you.  You are welcome to call me toll free at (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you can contact me via e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca

 

If you are an Ontario resident and you have entered into a debt settlement agreement with CCDR then I would invite you to contact me.

If you are an Ontario resident and you have entered into a debt settlement agreement with CCDR then I would invite you to contact me.

 

 

Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc.: Satisfying debt settlement industry’s best practices?

 

A couple of weeks ago someone asked me to look at the website for a debt settlement firm called Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc., also known by its initials, CCDR.  The firm’s website is https://ccdr.ca.  According to the homepage for this company’s website, CCDR is licensed as a debt settlement firm in both Saskatchewan and in Ontario.  At the bottom of the webpage titled “DEBT SETTLEMENT RED FLAG” the following sentence is prominently displayed:

We are proud to say that Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc. adheres to the best practices in the industry.

 

MarkedUpBottomRedFlagDebtSettlementOHL

This screenshot is taken from the bottom of the webpage titled “Debt Settlement Red Flag” on CCDR’s website (Orange highlight has been added).

 

Four questions for CCDR’s ownership

After reviewing the firm’s website, researching various government sources and social media, and visiting the firm’s Ontario office, I have four questions for the firm’s Canadian owners.

Is CCDR’s ownership hypocrites?

Is CCDR adequately safeguarding its clients’ personal information?

Is CCDR misleading the public about the consequences of entering into a debt settlement agreement?

Is CCDR negotiating settlements on behalf of Ontario clients illegally?

 

 

1.      Are CCDR’s owners hypocrites?

Despite the fact that CCDR is licensed to provide debt settlement services in both Saskatchewan and in Ontario the company is essentially a Saskatchewan-based firm.  On the CONTACT page for the firm’s website its Saskatchewan office is described as the “Saskatchewan Head Office” and “All customer support and new inquiries are handled here.”  Furthermore, a corporate search of the firm lists a Saskatchewan address as the firm’s head office and all of the firm’s directors are Saskatchewan residents.

The homepage for CCDR promotes the firm as the preferred choice as a debt settlement service provider for Saskatchewan residents.  The website’s homepage goes so far as to discourage consumers from using “out-of-province” debt settlement firms.  After reading this blog post, some people might think CCDR’s website is hypocritical warning consumers to avoid hiring out-of-province debt settlement firms.  This Saskatchewan-based firm is offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents in circumstances where it has virtually no presence in Ontario.  CCDR’s concerns for consumers using an out-of-province debt settlement firm would appear to be limited to Saskatchewan residents–and not the residents of Ontario.

 

This screenshot is the top portion of the homepage on CCDR's website.

This screenshot is the top portion of the homepage on CCDR’s website.

Highlighting has been added to this screenshot of the top portion of CCDR’s homepage.

 

 

2.         Is CCDR adequately safeguarding clients’ personal information?

On the homepage for CCDR’s website one can find the statement “No appointment is necessary you may call or drop in”.  CCDR’s registered Ontario office is located at 55 King Street W., 7th Floor, Kitchener, Ontario, N2G 4W1.  Since I just happen to live in Kitchener, Ontario, I thought I would take CCDR up on its invitation to drop by its office.

Recently I visited 55 King Street, 7th Floor in Kitchener, Ontario, which I discovered is a Regus corporate business centre.

CCDR's registered Ontario office is located at a Regus corporate business centre in Kitchener, Ontario.

CCDR’s registered Ontario office is located at a Regus corporate business centre in Kitchener, Ontario.

 

One of the very friendly Customer Service representatives at Regus was only too happy to give me a tour of the entire 7th floor.  When I provided the Regus Customer Service representative with the name of my firm, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc., she volunteered that Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc., was one of their clients that shared an office with one of more other firms.  During our tour of the 7th floor my Customer Service representative from Regus showed me the actual office which CCDR shared with other firms, an office with six workstations and very little else.

My Regus tour guide also volunteered that the representatives from CCDR are “rarely here”.  When I asked about a desktop computer sitting at an empty workstation the Regus Customer Service representative identified it as the CCDR computer.  Later that day this Regus Customer Service representative confirmed that six individuals–not all of whom were CCDR employees–had keys to the shared office where CCDR’s computer was located.

Given this information, CCDR might want to ask themselves if their clients’ financial information is being adequately safeguarded.  With respect to maintaining the confidentiality of client information is CCDR adhering to the “best practices in the industry”?

 

 

3.       Is CCDR misleading the public about the consequences of entering into a     debt settlement agreement?

Over the past few days I have thoroughly reviewed the content on CCDR’s website.  There are two issues where I found the content on https://ccdr.ca to be misleading:

  • statements suggesting that people entering into a debt settlement agreement with CCDR would not receive collection calls
  • failure to mention that a client entering into a debt settlement agreement with CCDR might get sued

The following screenshot is Question 16 on CCDR’s FAQ webpage where the issue of stopping collection calls is referred to.

 

Highlights have been added to this screenshot taken from FAQ page on CCDR's website.

Highlights have been added to this screenshot taken from FAQ page on CCDR’s website.

 

I am perplexed by the representation contained in Question 16 on CCDR’s FAQ page that CCDR can stop collection calls to a consumer who becomes a client within about a week.  In fact, there is no law–no provincial law in either Saskatchewan or Ontario, nor federal law–which confers on a debt settlement firm the right to stop collection calls to its debt settlement clients.  CCDR might very well send a letter to a client’s creditors demanding that all phone calls be made to CCDR and not its client.  The creditor, and its authorized collection agent, however, have every right to make collection calls to any consumer owing it money, including anyone who has entered into a debt settlement agreement with CCDR.

The content on CCDR’s website contains a number of statements about the positive results that are available if an individual enters into a debt settlement agreement with CCDR.  What I was not able to find anywhere on CCDR’s website was a statement indicating that a creditor might sue a consumer who had entered into a debt settlement agreement with CCDR.

 

 

4.      Is CCDR negotiating settlements illegally on behalf of Ontario residents?

The Ontario Government has a regulatory regime for firms providing debt settlement services which is contained in the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act and Regulation 74.  There are three different types of licenses under this Act.

  • collection agency license
  • branch office licene (required where a firm operates from multiple locations)
  • collector license (required for employees performing certain functions)

Under the Act a firm providing debt settlement services to Ontario residents–except those exempt from the Act–must possess an Ontario collection agency license.  If a firm providing debt settlement services to Ontario residents operates from more than one location then each location requires a branch office license.

Furthermore, some, but not all, employees of a firm offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents must possess a valid Ontario “collector” license.  Individuals who negotiate settlements on behalf of Ontario residents are required to be licensed as a collector under the Act.  Furthermore, a collector is only permitted to perform these debt settlement functions while physically present on the premises listed on their collector registration.  Subsection 13(8) of Regulation 74 of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act reads as follows:

(8)   A collector shall be registered where he or she is to be employed by a registered collection agency.

Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc. possesses an Ontario collection agency license with a registered office located at 55 King Street W., 7th Floor, Kitchener, Ontario, N2G 4W1.

 

This screenshot taken from an Ontario Government website confirms that Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc. possesses a valid Ontario collection agency license and provides its registered office address in Kitchener, Ontario.

This screenshot taken from an Ontario Government website confirms that Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc. possesses a valid Ontario collection agency license and provides its registered office address in Kitchener, Ontario.

 

 

 

I have written confirmation that Canadian Customer Relief Inc. does not have any branch office licenses that would permit its collectors to work at any address other than its registered office in Kitchener.

Furthermore, I have written confirmation that Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc. has two collectors licensed under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.: Gregory Roberts and Rachelle Roberts.  You will find a screenshot confirming their license status below:

This screenshot from an Ontario Government database confirms that Gregory Roberts is licensed as a collector under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act and is licensed to work at 55 King Street West, 7th Floor, Kitchener, Ontario.

This screenshot from an Ontario Government database confirms that Gregory Roberts is licensed as a collector under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act and is licensed to work at 55 King Street West, 7th Floor, Kitchener, Ontario.

 

 

 

This scrdeenshot from Ontario Government website confirms that Rachelle Roberts is licensed as a collector under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act and she is entitled to work as a collector at 55 King Street w., 7th Floor, Kitchener, Ontario.

This scrdeenshot from Ontario Government website confirms that Rachelle Roberts is licensed as a collector under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act and she is entitled to work as a collector at 55 King Street w., 7th Floor, Kitchener, Ontario.

 

 

 

CCDR’s two licensed collectors are both Saskatchewan residents

A corporate search of Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc. reveals that CCDR’s two Ontario collectors, Gregory Roberts and Rachelle Roberts, are directors and shareholders of the company.  A copy of the first page of a corporate search of Canadian Customer Debt Relief is reproduced below:

screenshottopportionp1CCDRcorpsearch (2)

screenshotbottomportionp1corpsearchCCDR (2)

 

A search of social media confirms that both Gregory, or Greg, Roberts, and Rachelle Roberts,  CCDR’s two licensed collectors under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act, are Saskatchewan residents.

According to this screenshot from ask.me Greg Roberts, of Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc., is a Saskatchewan resident.

According to this screenshot from ask.me Greg Roberts, owne off Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc., is a Saskatchewan resident.

 

RachelleRobertsLinkedInProfileexcerpt

 

RachelleRobertsHealthandWellnessaddress

 

 

I don’t know whether or not CCDR has any Ontario clients for whom it provides debt settlement services.  I do know, however, that CCDR has gone to the time, trouble, and expense, to obtain an Ontario collection agency license, obtain a shared office in Kitchener, Ontario, place a computer in that shared office, and obtain two Ontario collector licenses.  I also know that CCDR is offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents on the firm’s website.

There would appear to be some issue as to whether or not CCDR is complying with Ontario law when it comes to negotiating settlements on behalf of any of its clients who are Ontario residents. CCDR does not employ anyone as a licensed collector who works full-time at the firm’s registered office located in Kitchener, Ontario.  In fact, the firm’s two licensed collectors live more than 1,900 kilometers from the firm’s registered office in Kitchener, Ontario.  Therefore, one wonders how CCDR can legally negotiate settlements on behalf of its Ontario clients when it does not employ a full-time licensed collector who works at the firm’s registered Kitchener office.

 

Official complaint has been filed with the Ontario Government

Given my concerns about whether or not CCDR might be contravening the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act in connection with negotiating settlements on behalf of Ontario residents who are clients of the firm, I have taken the liberty of filing a formal complaint against the firm with the Ontario Ministry of Government and Social Services.

 

Any Ontario residents who are clients of CCDR invited to contact me

If you live in Ontario and you are an existing or former debt settlement client of Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc. I would invite you to call me at (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513.  Alternaively, you are welcome to send me an e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.

If you are an Ontario resident and you are a client of CCDR then you might want to contact Mark Silverthorn.

If you are an Ontario resident and you are a client of CCDR then you might want to contact Mark Silverthorn.