Tag Archive for Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act

Should Law Society be concerned about marketing on behalf of Ontario Debt Law?

 

Sometime in July of 2015 a new player entered the debt settlement marketplace in Ontario, Ontario Debt Law.  The first two sentences of a marketing letter on Ontario Debt Law letterhead, dated August 12, 2015, reads 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.

 

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This document–together with several other pages–were sent to a prospective client of Ontario Debt Law in August of 2015.  In August of 2015 Ontario Debt Law held itself out to the public as operating from 188 Wilkinson Road, Brampton, Ontario, the same building where OCCA is located. 

 

The only services performed by Ontario Debt Law appear to be “debt settlement services” as defined in subsection 1(1) of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.  In late 2015 a mystery shopper contacted Ontario Debt Law and made arrangements to meet in person with representatives from the firm.

 

Statements made to a mystery shopper in late 2015

Sometime in late November or early December a mystery shopper attended in person at 188 Wilkinson Road in Brampton, Ontario, home to Ontario Consumer Credit Assistance (OCCA), one of the largest debt settlement service providers in Canada over the past decade.  During this meeting two individuals–one female and one male–encouraged the mystery shopper to become a client of Ontario Debt Law.

In this 1:00 video clip the person meeting with a mystery shopper describes herself as “just the greeter”.

 

In this 2:37 clip the female representative identifies herself as an employee of OCCA.  She explains the various tasks performed by OCCA, Angelo Serafini, and Ontario Debt Law.

 

 

In this 1:22 video clip a male representative explains how OCCA and Debt Helpers–a marketing firm– work under the umbrella of Ontario Debt Law.

 

 

The mystery shopper advises the female representative that she is three months in arrears making payments on her Rogers bill.  The representative advises her that if she becomes a client of Ontario Debt Law then the law firm can stop collection calls on her Rogers bill.  In fact this statement is not entirely accurate.  With respect to non-bank debt, a lawyer can take certain actions to stop collection calls from a creditor’s collection agents, collection agencies or law firms.  A lawyer who is representing a debtor, however, cannot stop collection calls from the original creditor.

In this 1:12 video clip a female representative working at OCCA’s premises in Brampton, Ontario–who describes herself as an OCCA employee–misrepresents Ontario Debt Law’s ability to stop collection calls on the mystery shopper’s outstanding Rogers bill.

 

The mystery shopper spoke to a second representative from Ontario Debt Law who made a number of troubling statements on a variety of subjects including the merits of making a consumer proposal, the impact of an informal proposal on a consumer’s credit report, and the legal consequences of the expiry of Ontario’s 2-year statute of limitations.

The Law Society may have some concerns about some of the statements made by the male representative–captured on this 2:03 video clip–to a mystery shopper seeking information about Ontario Debt Law in late 2015.

 

This representative misrepresents the legal consequences of the expiry of Ontario’s 2-year statute of limitations.  He also made the bizarre statement that “a consumer proposal is an expensive bankruptcy”.

 

Angelo Serafini is responsible for statements made by those marketing the services offered by Ontario Debt Law

A lawyer is responsible for the actions of anyone marketing his firm’s services to the public.  Therefore, lawyer Angelo Serafini is responsible for statements made by those marketing the services offered by Ontario Debt Law regardless of who employs the individuals responsible for these representations.

 

Contact me if you are a client of Ontario Debt Law

I would invite anyone who has become a client of Ontario Debt Law since July 1st of 2015 to contact me.  You are welcome to call me at 1 (866) 996-9941 or at (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you can send me an e-mail at markasilverthorn@gmail.com.

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You are welcome to contact me if you are a client of Ontario Debt Law.

 

 

 

 

 

Are debt settlement clients of Ontario Debt Law entitled to a one hundred percent refund?

 

Very few Canadians will have ever heard of a debt settlement law firm by the name of Ontario Debt Law.  This debt settlement firm began carrying on business sometime around July of 2015.  I have yet to be able to identify a single employee of this firm.  It would appear that most of the tasks performed for Ontario Debt Law’s clients are done by employees of Ontario Consumer Credit Assistance Inc. (OCCA).

 

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Most of the tasks performed on behalf of Ontario Debt Law’s clients are carried out by employees of Ontario Consumer Credit Assistance Inc. (OCCA) at its office located at 188 Wilkinson Road in Brampton, Ontario.  This location is about 40 kilometers from the address listed for Ontario Debt Law on the firm’s website, www.ontariodebtlaw.ca, 447 Speers Road, Oakville, Ontario.

 

The other day someone asked me if a client of Ontario Debt Law, which would appear to provide no services other than “debt settlement services” as defined under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act, would be entitled to a one hundred percent refund of fees paid to the firm.  After researching this issue, in my opinion anyone who has become a debt settlement client of Ontario Debt Law since July 1, 2015, might be entitled to a hundred percent refund of fees paid to the firm.

A majority of Ontario Debt Law’s clients might be unaware that the contract that they have entered into with Ontario Debt Law is a debt settlement services agreement because Ontario Debt Law calls its debt settlement services agreement a Membership Agreement.  Some of Ontario Debt Law’s clients might also be under the impression that they are actually clients of OCCA because employees of OCCA would appear to perform the lion’s share of tasks associated with their debt settlements services agreement.

 

Ontario Debt Law’s nightmare scenario

If an Ontario judge, or the Ontario Government, were to take the position that Ontario Debt Law is not entitled to the “lawyer’s exemption” contained in paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act then Ontario Debt Law might find itself in for some significant difficulties.

 

Are you an Ontario Debt Law client who would like a full refund of fees paid to the firm?

Here is some food for thought for Ontario Debt Law’s clients and former clients. If you are interested in a refund of 100 percent of fees paid to Ontario Debt Law then you might want to consider sending them a written notice advising them that not only are you cancelling your debt settlement services agreement within one year of the date of the agreement but also you are demanding a refund of 100 percent of all fees paid to the firm.

In the event that Ontario Debt Law were to decline to provide you with a full refund within 15 days of receipt of your written notice of both cancellation and demand for a full refund then you do have a remedy available to you.  You can sue Ontario Debt Law pursuant to sections 16.10(1) and (2) of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act seeking an order awarding you repayment of your fees.  If your lawsuit were successful, in addition to awarding you repayment of your fees, and court costs, the trial judge has a statutory discretion to award you exemplary and punitive damages.

You might be saying to yourself that your cannot afford to sue a law firm to recover your fees.  I have news for you!  I can think of one or two dozen firms whom would be quite happy to pay all your legal expenses if you decided to sue Ontario Debt Law to recover fees paid to the law firm.  This group would include some collection agencies, some bankruptcy trustees, and potentially some credit counselling agencies.

 

Background information

On July 1, 2015, a new regulatory regime came into effect in Ontario that had a dramatic impact upon the entire debt settlement industry.  Beginning July 1, 2015, the Ontario Government imposed significant restrictions on the amount of fees that a debt settlement services provider could charge.  Firstly, a debt settlement provider could not charge a penny in fees until such time that a settlement actually took place.  Secondly, the amount of these fees was capped, not to exceed ten percent of the amount of the debt when the debt settlement services agreement was signed.

An example will help illustrate the new fee structure in place in Ontario as of July 1, 2015. If an Ontario resident signed a debt settlement agreement on July 2, 2015, and he had one outstanding credit card on which they owed $10,000.00 then the maximum fee which the debt settlement firm could charge its client would be $1,000.00, or ten percent of $10,000.00, the amount of debt on the date the debt settlement services agreement was signed.

These new restrictions on fees, together with a number of other onerous requirements on debt settlement service provider, encouraged many firms to leave the industry or reinvent themselves.  A substantial number of debt settlement firms ceased operating in Ontario because of the new regulatory regime.  A few debt settlement firms sought to avoid the new regulatory regime altogether–including its restrictive fee structure–by offering their services through a lawyer practising law in Ontario.

If you would like more background information about Ontario Debt Law and its Siamese-twin relationship with OCCA then you are welcome to read one of my earlier blog posts, dated August 16, 2015, and September 28, 2015 or my article appearing in the print edition of the Law Times on September 21, 2015.

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On September 21, 2015, the Law Times, a weekly newspaper for Ontario’s lawyer, carried a story I wrote titled “Speaker’s Corner:  Questions raised about deputy judge’s debt settlement activity.

 

What are the consequences if Ontario Debt Law were not able to bring itself within the “lawyer’s exemption” in the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act?

As mentioned earlier, Ontario regulates firms providing debt settlement services to Ontario residents.  The relevant law is the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.  Any firm that provides debt settlement services to Ontario residents must be the holder of a valid Ontario collection agency license–except where it is exempt from this licensing requirement under subsection 2(1) of the Act.

The term “collection agency” is defined in subsection 1(1) of the Act as follows:

“collection agency” means

(a)    a person, other than a collector, who obtains or arranges for payment of money owing to another person or who holds himself out to the public as providing such a service,

(b)   any person who sells or offers to sell forms or letters represented to be a collection system or scheme, or

(c)   a person, other than a collector, who provides debt settlement services

 

If a judge in a civil lawsuit or the Ontario Registar of Collection Agencies–the senior civil servant responsible for enforcing the Act–were to take the position that Ontario Debt Law does not fall within the “lawyer’s exemption” in paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Act then Ontario Debt Law would be required to possess an Ontario collection agency license.

Such a finding would affect the viability of Ontario Debt Law’s current business model because the firm would face the prospect of all of its clients seeking a one hundred percent refund of their fees paid pursuant to their debt settlement services agreements.

If Ontario Debt Law cannot bring itself within the “lawyer’s exemption” then it is not entitled to charge a penny in fees to anyone entering into a contract for debt settlement services after June 30, 2015.  Paragraph 16.6(2) of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Servies Act reads as follows:

A collection agency or collector that enters into a debt settlement services agreement before being registered shall not be entitled to receive any payment or security for payment under subsection (1) for debt settlement services provided under the agreement.

 

Why might Ontario Debt Law not fall within the “lawyer’s exemption” contained in paragraph 2(1)(1) of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act?

There are three distinct grounds upon which either a trial judge or the Ontario Registrar of Collection Agencies might base a decision that Ontario Debt Law does not fall within the “lawyer’s exemption” in the Act.

1       Mr. Serafini not providing services in the regular practice of his profession

Angelo Serafini’s law office is located in Oakville.  Mr. Serafini’s website for his Oakville law practice is www.serafinilaw.ca.  Nowhere on this website is there any reference to Ontario Debt Law–which according to e-mails sent out on behalf of Ontario Debt Law–is a law firm owned and operated by Angelo Serafini.  This website lists various practice areas–real estate, wills and estates, and business law.  There is no reference whatsoever on this website that would suggest that Angelo Serafini’s Oakville-based law firm offers debt settlement services.

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On the ABOUT US webpage on www.serafini.law, Mr. Serafini’s bio does not contain any reference whatsoever to Ontario Debt Law.

 

Angelo Serafini makes no reference to Ontario Debt Law on his LinkedIn Profile.

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Oakville Lawyer Angelo Serafini makes no reference whatsoever to Ontario Debt Law, a law firm he owns and operates, on his LinkedIn Profile.

 

In the second paragraph on one of the pages of Ontario Debt Law’s debt settlement services agreement–a document titled Membership Agreement–it states that any of Ontario Debt Law’s obligations under the contract can be performed by OCCA.

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This clause found in Ontario Debt Law’s (ODL) debt settlement services agreement would appear to permit Ontario Debt Law to assign all of its contractual obligations pursuant to this agreement to Ontario Consumer Credit Assistance Inc. (OCCA), a firm whose Brampton office is located 40 kilometers from Angelo Serafini’s Oakville office.  Coloured highlights have been added.

 

OCCA’s Brampton office is located 40 kilometers from Mr. Serafini’s Oakville office.  To the best of my knowledge, there are no employees of Mr. Serafini’s Oakville-based law practice or Ontario Debt Law working at OCCA’s Brampton office.  Some people might ask what tasks–if any–are Mr. Serafini and his employees performing in connection with Ontario Debt Law’s debt settlement service agreements?

Is Ontario Debt Law providing services in the regular course of Mr. Serafini’s practice of law?

 

2      Amount of work performed by Angelo Serafini or “his employees”

The “lawyer’s exemption” in paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act reads as follows:

This Act does not apply to

(a)   a barrister and solicitor in ther regular practice of his profession or to his or her employees

Some people might ask what work, if any, pursuant to the debt settlement services agreements entered into by Ontario Debt Law, is being performed by either Angelo Serafini or “his employees”.

I obtained a better sense of the division of labour between Brampton-based Ontario Consumer Credit Assistance Inc. (OCCA) and Angelo Serafini and “his employees” after watching some video footage taken recently by a mystery shopper that visited OCCA’s Brampton office posing as an individual interested in becoming a client of Ontario Debt Law.

 

In December of 2015 a mystery shopper visited OCCA’s Brampton office at which time she sought clarification about the relationship between OCCA and Ontario Debt Law.

 

3      Disqualified because of the Act’s anti-avoidance provision?

Section 2.1 of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act contains an anti-avoidance provision which reads as follows:

In determining whether this Act applies to an entity or transaction, a court or Tribunal shall consider the real substance of the entity or transaction and in so doing disregard the outward form.

A trial judge might decide that Ontario Debt Law was created for the sole purpose of permitting Ontario Consumer Credit Assistance Inc. (OCCA) to avoid being licensed under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act and make a ruling that Ontario Debt Law is not exempt from the Act pursuant to paragraph 2(1)(a).

 

Contact Mark Silverthorn if you are a former or existing client of Ontario Debt Law

You are welcome to contact me if you are a current or former client of Ontario Debt Law.  You can call me at (519) 827-5513 or send me an e-mail at markasilverthorn@gmail.com.

 

Sample Cancellation/Demand for Refund letter

The letter which appears below can be used by anyone seeking a refund from a debt settlement firm in circumstances where (1) the debt settlement services agreement was entered into after June 30, 2015, and (2) the debt settlement firm is not licensed as a collection agency in Ontario nor is it exempt from the requirement of being licensed.

 

sample cancellation and refund demand letter

This is a sample letter which any Ontario resident can use to obtain a full refund of fees from an unlicensed collection agency.  For more information you are invited to contact me.

 

 

Copy of Ontario Debt Law’s debt settlement services agreement

 

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CCDR cancels debt settlement contracts with Ontario clients

 

Last week a Saskatchewan-based debt settlement firm, Canadian Customer Debt Relief Inc. (CCDR), cancelled its contracts with its Ontario clients.  This means that there are a number of former clients of CCDR in Ontario without a debt settlement service provider.  Tomorrow I have a phone call scheduled with one such “orphan” debt settlement client.

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It would appear that Saskatchewan-based debt settlement provider Canadian Customer Debt Relief (CCDR), has sent a letter to its Ontario clients in late January cancelling their debt settlement service contracts leaving clients without a debt settlement service provider.

 

 

CCDR cancelling debt settlement agreements with Ontario clients

Today I received a phone call from an Ontario resident–who wished to remain anonymous–who described himself as a debt settlement client of CCDR living in Roseneath, Ontario.  According to this individual, he received a letter dated January 28, 2016, from CCDR informing him that CCDR was cancelling its debt settlement contract with him.

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This letter dated January 28, 2016, from Saskatchewan-based Canadian Customer Debt Relief (CCDR) informs one of its clients, a resident of Roseneath, Ontario, that the firm is no longer providing debt settlement services to the residents of Ontario.  Some information has been “whited out” on this document to protect the identity of the recipient of this letter.  This page is one of three pages of correspondence from CCDR sent to a client living in Roseneath, Ontario.  The other two pages can be found at the bottom of this post.

 

Why did CCDR cancel its debt settlement contracts with Ontario clients?

According to the January 28, 2016, letter from CCDR addressed to one of its Ontario clients changes to Ontario’s debt settlement laws that came into effect in September of 2015 were instrumental in CCDR’s decision to cease providing debt settlement services to Ontario residents.

What I find odd about this statement is that there were no changes to the law in Ontario regulating debt settlement firms in September of 2015.  If CCDR ceased offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents in January of 2016 then what was the reason for this decision?  It is important to appreciate the fact that not only did CCDR stop taking on new clients in January of this year but also in 2016 it was issuing refunds to Ontario clients.

What I also find odd about this statement is that–according to my confidential source–it was “business as usual” with CCDR’s Ontario clients as late as October of 2015.  This leads me to conclude that something incredibly important happend sometime between October of 2015 and January of 2016 to motivate CCDR to cease providing debt settlement services to Ontario residents.

 

CCDR’s failure to satisfy Ontario-based staffing requirements

I suspect that the real reason for CCDR’s cessation of operations in Ontario is its refusal to comply with the requirement in the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act that its debt negotiator(s)–negotiating settlements on behalf of Ontario clients–work on the premises of its Ontario office.  I wrote about this issue in a post on this blog on August 2, 2015.  Furthermore, in August of 2015 I made a formal complaint to the Ontario Government stating that it would appear that CCDR was contravening Ontario’s Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act because it did not employ any collectors licensed under the Act that worked on the premises of its Ontario office situated at 55 King Street West in Kitchener, Ontario.

I suspect that within a few months of my June 2015 complaint that the Ontario Government was putting some pressure on CCDR to either hire a full-time collector licensed under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act to work on-site at its Kitchener, Office or wind up its Ontario debt settlement operations.

 

Strong response from CCDR owner Greg Roberts

My August 2nd blog post attracted a strong reaction from Greg Roberts, one of the owners of CCDR.  Mr. Roberts added the following comment at the end of one of my two LinkedIn posts published in June of 2015.

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Greg Roberts, one of the owners of Saskatchewan-based CCDR, posted this Comment at the end of one of my two LInkedIn posts about CCDR in June of 2015.

Contact me if you have any information regarding CCDR’s activities in Ontario

I would invite anyone with information regarding CCDR’s actities in Ontario to contact me.  You are welcome to call me at 1 (866) 966-9941 or (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you are welcome to e-mail me at (519) 827-5513.  In particular, I would ask any Ontario resident who was a former client of Canadian Customer Debt Relief (CCDR) to contact me

 

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You are invited to contact me if you have any information regarding the activities of Canadian Customer Debt Relief in Ontario. 

 

 

Documents dated January 28, 2016, sent by CCDR to an Ontario client

 

According to an anonymous source, Canadian Customer Debt Relief (CCDR), sent its Ontario clients three pages of correspondence in late January in connection with the firm’s decision to cancel their existing debt settlement services contract.  A redacted copy of one such letter can be found below.  Any information which can identify the Ontario client of CCDR has been whited out to protect the individual’s identity.

 

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Ontario Government investigating Complete Debt Solutions?

 

About seven months ago I wrote two posts regarding a Toronto-based debt settlement firm, Complete Debt Solutions.  This firm had a website, www.completedebtsolutions.ca, offering debt settlement services to Canadians, Americans, as well as residents of the United Kingdom.  At that time Complete Debt Solutions appeared to be contravening Ontario’s debt settlement law and I made a formal complaint to the Ontario Government concerning this firm.  Now seven months after I made my formal complaint to the Ontario Government Complete Debt Solutions may be facing some tough questions from Ontario regulators.

The homepage for the firm’s website, www.completedebtsolutions.ca is reproduced below.

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More than seven months after I made a formal complaint to the Ontario Government concerning Complete Debt Solutions, a Toronto-based debt settlement firm which is contravening Ontario law, the firm’s website, www.completedebtsolutions.ca, is still up.

 

I wrote two posts about this firm.  The first post, dated June 22, 2015, was titled “Complete Debt Solutions Operating in Canada Illegally?”.  The second post, dated July 19, 2015, 2015, was titled “Complete Debt Solutions and the smoking gun“.

In my first post dated June 22nd I shared with readers that I made a formal complaint to the Ontario Government concerning what appeared to be a Toronto-based firm offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents in the absence of possessing the required license–an Ontario collection agency license–or being exempt from this requirement.

In my second post, dated July 19, 2015, I reproduced a copy of a debt settlement agreement that Mr. Milton Kaseke of Complete Debt Solutions sent to a prospective client.  You can find a copy of this document at the end of my July 19, 2015 post.  This document would appear to be evidence of multiple contraventions of a variety of provisions under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.  One of the most troublesome provisions of this agreement were the up-front fees Complete Debt Solutions would be charging the prospective client.

In January of this year I received an e-mail from an Investigator with the Investigations Unit of the Consumer Protection Branch, Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, advising me that he had been assigned the file with respect to my complaint involving Complete Debt Solutions.  I subsequently spoke with the Investigator on the phone and he arranged to meet me at my residence on January 22, 2016.  On that date I made a sworn statement in connection with my complaint.

I am pleased to learn that after going through the time and trouble of making a complaint against a firm that would appear to be clearly operating in contravention of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act that the Ontario Government has assigned an Investigator to the file.  I am disappointed however, that it took the Ontario Government more than six months to assign an Investigator to a complaint which involves a straightforward violation of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.

In Ontario any firm offering debt settlement services to the public must either possess the necessary license or be exempt from the requirement of having a license.  In June of 2015 Complete Debt Solutions did not possess an Ontario collection agency license nor was it exempt from doing so.  To the best of my knowledge, today–seven months after I made my formal complaint concerning Complete Debt Solutions–the firm does not possess the necessary license nor is it exempt from the Act.  I do, however, still see the firm’s website, www.completedebtsolutions.ca, offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents.

A significant amount of the evidence-gathering for an investigation of Complete Debt Solutions can be found in my two posts dated June 22, 2015, and July 19, 2015.

It would appear that no one at the Consumer Protection Branch at the Ministry of Consumer Services has had the time to read the Mark Silverthorn Blog over the past ten months.

 

Contact me if you have any information regarding Complete Debt Solutions

I would invite anyone with information regarding Complete Debt Solutions to contact me at (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you are welcome to send me an e-mail at markasilverthorn@gmail.com.

If you entered into a debt settlement agreement with Complete Debt Solutions then you might be entited, under Ontario law, to a one hundred percent refund of any monies paid to Complete Debt Solutions.

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Anyone with information regarding Complete Debt Solutions is invited to contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I name unethical and illegal operators in consumer protection summit with Mike Colle, MPP

 

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This past week I drove from Kitchener to Toronto to the Ontario Legislature for a consumer protection summit meeting with Mike Colle, MPP (Lib. Eglinton-Lawrence)–a wide-ranging discussion regarding consumer protection issues facing Ontario residents.

 

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from the office of Mike Colle, MPP, the sitting member of the Ontario Legislature for the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence.  The invitation indicated that this veteran Ontario lawmaker was interested in meeting with me at his office at Queen’s Park to discuss consumer debt.

We did meet a few days ago at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto.   During our meeting at his Queen’s Park office–literally a stone’s throw from the Legislature–we had a free-wheeling conversation focusing on consumer debt issues.  Mr. Colle shared with me some anecdotes regarding the credit reporting industry.  One of main topics of conversation were concerns I have raised over the past four months on this blog and in my LinkedIn posts regarding the conduct of those holding themselves out as helping consumers struggling with unsecured consumer debt.

During this meeting I provided Mike Colle, MPP, with the names of firms whose activities I believe warrant investigation by either the Ontario Registrar of Collection Agencies or the federal Superintendent of Bankruptcy.  I also provided Mr. Colle with some of the details of my firm’s four-month investigation into the post-July 1st regulatory regime for firms offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents.

 

Presentation of autographed copy of my book

At the end of our meeting I had the opportunity to provide Mike Colle, MPP, with an autographed copy of my book titled The Wolf At The Door:  What To Do When Collection Agencies Come Calling (2010), published by McClelland & Stewart.  This moment was captured for posterity in the photo, appearing below, taken by Mr. Colle’s assistant, Ms. Ashley Rensler.

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This past week I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Colle, MPP (Eglinton-Lawrence) at his Queen’s Park office and presenting him with an autographed copy of my book The Wolf At The Door:  What To Do When Collection Agencies Come Calling.

 

Future meetings with  lawmakers

I hope that my meeting this past week with Mike Colle, MPP, is not the last meeting where I have the opportunity to discuss my concerns regarding enforcement of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act with a member of the Ontario Legislature.  Earlier this year I reached out to several members of the Ontario Legislature with respect to my concerns regarding consumer protection. I can say that I am scheduled to meet with a second member of the Ontario Legislature in the next ten days.  My goal is to meet with a significant number of Ontario lawmakers to share my concerns regarding enforcement of Ontario’s consumer protection laws–in particular those relating to the conduct of collection agencies and firms offering debt settlement services.

In the future I would also like to schedule meetings with federal Members of Parliament at which time I can present them with some of the details of my inquiries with respect to the conduct of debt consultants–particularly in Ontario–and potential violations of the Code of Ethics for Bankruptcy Trustees.

Any lawmaker that is interested in scheduling a meeting with me is welcome to contact me by phone at (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513 or via e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.

 

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Over the next few days, weeks, and months, I hope to be able to present both Ontario and federal lawmakers with the names of firms–holding themselves as assisting consumers struggling with unsecured consumer debt–who should be investigated by regulators.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.