If you default on payments to creditors the first people you are likely to hear from are bill collectors. Bill collectors are collection agents who work for collection agencies. Having a debt in collections can be stressful and may leave you wanting to figure out how to stop the collection calls from bill collectors.
In Ontario, collection services agencies and bill collectors are regulated by the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services are have to follow laws outlined in the Collection Agencies Act. You can view the Collection Agencies Act on the E-Laws website.
The Collection Agencies act was put in place to establish guidelines to put a stop to improper collection action on the part of Collection Agencies. In the past collection agencies would cross the line, harassing people who owed their client’s money, beyond ordinary collection calls to the debtor. This led the government to take action and establish limits for bill collectors.
The first step a collection agency must take when a debt is assigned to them for collection is to send you a written notice through the mail (email doesn’t count). This notice must include:
1. The name of the creditor (the person or business that says you owe them money)
2. The amount the creditor says you owe
3. The name of the collection agency and its authority to demand payment on behalf of the creditor.
There are limits to how, when and how often bill collectors are allowed to contact you. Bill collectors are not allowed to contact you by telephone more than three times in a seven day period without your express permission. This includes speaking with you or leaving you a voicemail.
The Collection Agencies Act also outlines that a collection agency or its bill collectors cannot:
1. Call you on Sunday, except between the hours of 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
2. Call you on any other day of the week between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.
3. Call you on a statutory holiday
4. Use threatening, profane, intimidating or coercive language, or
5. Use undue, excessive or unreasonable pressure.
A bill collector representing a collection agency can contact your employer once to obtain your employment information. Otherwise, they cannot contact your employer unless:
1. Your employer has guaranteed the debt
2. The call is in connection with a court order or notice of garnishment that has been issued by the creditor they are representing
3. You have provided written authorization to contact your employer
Under the Collection Agencies Act a bill collector representing a collection agency cannot contact your spouse, a member of your family or household, or a relative, neighbour or acquaintance or any other third party, except to obtain your address and telephone number, unless the person contacted cosigned or guaranteed the debt or you have provided permission for the person to be contacted.
Finally, under the Collection Agencies Act a bill collector representing a collection agency cannot:
1. Give false or misleading information to any person
2. Recommend to a creditor that a legal action be commenced against you without first sending you notice.
If you want to stop collection calls there are two ways to do it.
Write to the collection agency and advise them that you only want to receive future communications from them in writing.
If you cannot pay the debt owed to the creditor that the collection agency is representing you can also participate in a Federal Government Program which will not only provide immediate debt relief but will also stop collection calls.
If a bill collector representing collection agency is harassing you or is exhibiting behaviour in contravention of the Collection Agencies Act you can make a complaint against through the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services.