Tag Archive for Amanda Potts

Is Strategic Credit Solutions offering debt settlement services across Canada illegally?

I recently received a tip about a Newmarket, Ontario-based debt settlement firm called Strategic Credit Solutions.  It would appear that this firm–which focuses on paying mortgage brokers for referrals–is offering debt settlement services not only in Ontario but also across Canada. I was given a copy of an e-mail dated February 23, 2016, describing the firm’s services as well as a very professional looking 4-panel digital brochure.

 

Feb232016marktingemailamandapotts

In this e-mail dated February 23, 2016, Ms. Amanda Potts, Regional Business Coordinator for Strategic Credit Solutions, discloses that the firm works with a lawyer to provide debt settlement services.  Nowhere in this e-mail or the attached marketing brochure is the name of the participating lawyer mentioned.

 

CoverpanelSCSmarketingbrochure

2ndpanelSCSmarketingbrochure

3rdpanelSCSmarketingbrochure

4thpanelSCSmarketingbrochure

In February of this year a Newmarket, Ontario- based firm, Strategic Credit Solutions, has been using this 4-panel brochure to market the firm’s debt settlement services to mortgage brokers.

 

 

Are the activities of Strategic Credit Solutions subject to the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act?

Debt settlement services is defined in subsection 1(1) of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services 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.

Based upon the contents of Ms. Potts’ e-mail dated February 23, 2016, the 4-panel marketing brochure, as well as the language contained in Strategic Credit Solutions’s website, www.scredit.ca, it would appear clear that the activities of Strategic Credit Solutions fall within the definition of “debt settlement services” as defined in subsection 1(1) of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.  The definition of “debt settlement services” includes “offering” debt settlement services.

 

Is Strategic Credit Solutions licensed to provide debt settlement services to Ontario residents under Ontario law?

Given the fact that Strategic Credit Solutions’ business model would appear to fall clearly within the definition of “debt settlement services” in the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Servics Act the first question one might ask is whether or not the firm possesses the appropriate license to “offer” debt settlement services to Ontario residents?

Any firm offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents must possess an Ontario collection agency license pursuant to the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act unless it is exempt from the Act.  Anyone visiting the homepage on Strategic Credit Solutions’ website, www.scredit.ca, could be excused for believing that the firm is licensed to provide debt settlement services in Ontario.

homepageFeb242016

The website for Strategic Credit Solutions, www.scredit.ca, would certainly suggest that this Newmarket, Ontario-based debt settlement service provider is licensed by the Ontario government to provide debt settlement services.  This is a screenshot of the homepage for www.scredit.ca, captured on February 26, 2016.

 

SCS is a Government licensed debt company that reduces consumers debt without filing consumer proposal or credit counselling.

This sentence is the first sentence which appears on the homepage for Strategic Credit Solutions’ website, www.scredit.ca

But is this statement true?

Feb242016emailStephanieLawrenceSCSnotlicensed

Ms. Stephanie Lawrence is the Ontario civil servant responsible for processing license registrations and renewals under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.  In this e-mail dated February 24, 2016, sent to me she confirms that Strategic Credit Solutions is not registered as a collection agency in Ontario.

 

Is Strategic Credit Solutions exempt from the requirement of being registered as a collection agency under Ontario law?

The Ontario Collection Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act does contain a number of exemptions in subsection 2(1) of the Act.  I am, however, not aware of any information that would suggest that, given Strategic Credit Solutions’ business model, the firm is exempt from the Act.

 

Strategic Credit Solutions would appear to be operating as an unlicensed debt settlement firm in Ontario

The activities of Newmarket, Ontario-based Strategic Credit Solutions would appear to be clearly within the definition of “debt settlement services” as defined in the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.  Furthermore, it would appear that Strategic Credit Solutions is not “registered” or licensed as a collection agency under the Act.  Finally, there is no evidence to suggest that Strategic Credit Solutions falls within an exemption under the Act.

Is Strategic Credit Solutions operating as an unlicensed debt settlement firm across Canada?

On Friday, February 26, 2016, I phoned Ms. Amanda Potts, Regional Business Coordinator, Strategic Credit Solutions.  During this telephone conversation I asked a number of questions in order to learn more details regarding the firm’s business model.  When I asked her in which provinces the firm operated she informed me that Strategic Credit Solutions’ services were available across Canada.

It would appear that Strategic Credit Solutions is operating illegally as an unregistered debt settlement service provider in Ontario.  What I have yet to determine is whether or not Strategic Credit Solutions is operating illegally as a debt settlement service provider in any provinces in addition to Ontario.  Accordingly, I anticipate that over the next week or so I will be contacting senior civil servants outside Ontario asking them to satisfy themselves whether or not Strategic Credit Solutions is offering debt settlement services contrary to the law in their province.

 

Toronto lawyer Colina King working with Strategic Credit Solutions?

When I asked Ms. Potts how many lawyers were participating in providing debt settlement services in conjunction with Strategic Credit Solutions she informed me it was just one lawyer.  The lawyer Ms. Potts named during this telephone call was Toronto lawyer Colina King.  On Friday, February 26, 2016, I spoke with Ms. Colina King on the phone.  During this phone call I identified myself, I advised her that Ms. Potts had identified her as the lawyer providing debt settlement services in conjunction with Strategic Credit Solutions.  I informed her that I would be publishing a post concerning Strategic Credit Solutions’ business model and I asked her if she cared to make any comments.  Ms. King told me she was busy and she was unable to speak with me.

ColinaKingLSUCDirectoryListing

In a telephone conversation on February 25, 2016, Ms. Amanda Potts, Regional Business Coordinator, Strategic Credit Solutions, identified Toronto lawyer Colina King as the lawyer providing debt settlement services in conjunction with Strategic Credit Solutions.

 

The LinkedIn Profile for lawyer Colina King does not make any reference to Strategic Debt Solutions nor to debt settlement services.

LinkedInProfileColinaKing

This is a screenshot of Ms. Colina King’s LinkedIn Profile–captured on February 28, 2016.  Nowhere in her LinkedIn Profile does Ms. King make any reference to Strategic Credit Solutions nor debt settlement services.

 

Hamfisted attempt to avoid draconian limitations on fees imposed by provincial regulators?

Over the past couple of years provincial governments across Canada have been enacting laws intended to protect consumers from abusive practices by some debt settlement service providers.  In many provinces these reforms included the introduction of draconian limitations on the fees charged by debt settlement service providers.  This has motivated a number of traditional debt settlement service providers to attempt–with varying degrees of success to reinvent themselves–but in circumstances where they could avoid the severe restrictions on fees which they could charge their clients.

The most common tactic for a traditional debt settlement service provider to avoid the new draconican restrictions on fees is to have the consumer enter into a contract for debt settlement services with a lawyer–and not the traditional debt settlement firm–in an attempt to be exempt from the Act.  The problem facing those attempting to successfully use this tactic is the narrow scope of the “lawyer’s exemption” contained in subsection 2(1) of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act, which reads as follows:

This Act does not apply to a barrister or solicitor in the regular practice of his or her profession or to his or her employees.

I would suggest that the current business model used by Strategic Credit Solutions is a hamfisted attempt to avoid the draconian limitations on fees imposed by provincial regulators.

 

Solicited comments from Josh Balner, Amanda Potts and Colina King prior to publication of this post

Prior to publishing this post I spoke to two representatives of Strategic Credit Solutions, Amanda Potts, Regional Business Cooridinator, and the firm’s Founder, Josh Balner.  I also had a brief telephone conversation with Toronto lawyer Colina King.  I also sent a draft of this post–via e-mail–to these three individuals before 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 28, 2016, requesting their comments on the post.  They did not respond to my invitation to comment on this post.

 

Contact me if you have entered into a debt settlement agreement with Strategic Credit Solutions or any lawyer associated with that firm

I would invite anyone who has entered into a debt settlement agreement with Strategic Credit Solutions or any lawyer associated with the firm to contact me.  You are welcome to call me at (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you can e-mail me at markasilverthorn@gmail.com.

 

DSC_0301

I would invite anyone who has entered into a contract for debt settlement services with either Strategic Credit Solutions or any lawyer associated with that firm to contact me.