What to Do When Debt Collectors Call
Receiving a call from a debt collector can be a nerve-wracking experience. If you have been unable to make regular payments on your debt; chances are you are already experiencing stress related to managing your money.
Debt collectors can be intimidating and scare you into unaffordable payment plans that will sink you further into debt. It is important to know your rights.
When and Who Can They Call?
Collection agents can call only during certain times:
- on a Monday to Saturday, between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time
- on a Sunday between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. local time
Your spouse, family member, relative, neighbor or friend if:
- that person has guaranteed to pay your debt, or
- you have given the collection agency written permission to do so, or
- they are only looking to confirm your contact information
- 1 time only to confirm your employment status, or
- if the employer has guaranteed your debt, or
- if you’ve given the agency written permission to contact them, or
- if the call is about a court order or an automatic deduction from your salary
They are also allowed to do a credit search on you and register the debt to your credit report – which may negatively impact your credit score.
If the collection agency violates any of the above items, you can file a complaint against them with the Ontario Ministry of Government & Consumer Services.
What should you do when a collection agent calls?
- In Ontario, a creditor has 2 years to commence legal action against you. This does not prevent the collection agency from calling you and seeking payment . The debt can remain on your credit bureau report for up to 7 years from the date of last activity.
- The collection agency is required to send you a letter with the amount owed, who it’s owed to, the collection agency and the agent’s name. They can only call you six days after the letter is sent. If you don’t think that you owe the debt or it is the wrong amount, write a registered letter to them asking for all the details – it they can’t provide you with the details, they are no longer allowed to call you.
- You can also send a registered letter requesting no more phone calls – they are legally obligated to comply.
- Offer a payment plan you can afford only if it is in your best interests to do so. If it is just one small debt that is having a negative impact on your credit report, paying it will probably be in your best interests. For example, if you know you will have funds to pay off the debt in 6 weeks time, offer to make a small payment now and an arrangement to make affordable payments over time. If you are unsure if you can afford to make payment, tell them to call you back while you access your situation.
- Don’t let them threaten you with lawsuits into making payments you can’t afford – it is highly unlikely a collection agency will sue you over a small debt such as an unpaid cell phone bill. However, if the debt is over $2,500 the original creditor could sue you, obtain a judgement, and act to garnish your wages (eventually).
- Besides legal action, the negative impact on your credit score could have consequences for your future plans. If they get as far as garnishing your bank account it’s too late to recover the money taken from the account, but you can still stop garnishments on future funds in the bank account.
- Offer to pay a portion of the outstanding debt as a settlement, but before you hand over the money make sure you receive a settlement letter from the collection agency agreeing to the settlement and the amount.
If you are receiving collection calls and are unable to make payments, you should speak to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee immediately. Doyle Salewski offers a free financial assessment to evaluate all your options so you can make an informed decision that is best for your future and we have the legal authority to stop creditor calls, lawsuits, and/or garnishments.
Book a free consultation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 613.237.5555.