Tag Archive for Ontario Debt Law

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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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

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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