1. I am from the Legal Department and you are being sued.
From my experience less then 2% of all debts listed to a collection agency ever result in formal legal proceedings and in most cases legal costs required to initiate a lawsuit have to be advanced by the collection agency. From a business perspective, it makes no sense to throw good money after bad hoping to recover the legal costs and the debt if you do not have enough assets available to satisfy the judgment being sought after. It’s just not worth it to the collection agency. Bill collectors use the “legal department” threat only because it is scary and most people don’t know better. The fact is that most bill collectors sit in a tiny 3″x 3″ cubicle and pretend to be someone they really aren’t on the phone.
2. I am going to garnish your pay cheque.
In order to get any piece of your pay cheque, the bill collector needs a judgment from a court in their favour but the collectors will not seek a judgment unless they have reason to believe that you have enough assets to satisfy a judgment. Pursuant to Section 7(2) of the Wages Act (Ontario), no more than 20% of your wages may be garnished. A creditor can bring a motion to increase the amount of wages that may be garnished but a debtor also has the right to bring a motion to have such amount decreased. I have heard Collectors tell people they will garnish 50% of their pay but the truth is that even if they get a judgment, garnishments rarely exceed 15-20% of pay. Again they only use the threat because it scares people and most don’t know any better.
3. If I don’t have payment by 4 p.m. today, we are (Insert threat here).
Bill collectors are paid a commission to do their job and so are the managers that are breathing down their necks in order to hit their targets. Some aggressive bill collectors can make six figures annually if they push people hard enough. They will tell you anything if they feel that it will result in a payment and a bigger commission cheque for them.
4. Pay in full, monthly payments are not an option.
They want full payment from you because they make more money off you when you pay in full. Payments are always an option; in most cases going directly to the creditor will get you a monthly payment plan. It won’t fix your credit but you will at least be able to stop the demand for full payment.
5. Collectors can call you as much as they like.
Pursuant to Section 22(6) of R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 74 to the Collection Agencies Act (Ontario), there are restrictions on the frequency of calls that collection agencies can make to you. Despite what they may tell you a bill collector cannot harass you. If you register a letter requesting the collection agency to communicate with only in writing the calls should stop otherwise you can escalate their behavior to their ombudsman or provincial ministry to take further steps.
6. Collectors can call and harass your family, friends and neighbours.
A collection agency can only contact a third party to confirm your home address and telephone number or your employer to confirm your employment, title and business address; that’s it (Section 22(3) of Regulation 74 to the Collection Agencies Act). If the collector divulges details about the debt or tries to embarrass you, there are steps you can take to deal with and stop this behavior.
7. Bill collectors can talk to you any way they feel.
Bill collectors can be obnoxious and rude; many think that insulting people will get the debt paid. Collection laws prevent this type of behavior reoccurring if you escalate it and deal with the issue. If you feel that they have mistreated you by using profanity, intimidating or coercive language, you can certainly stop it. They will most certainly deny the activity so a tape recorded conversation or voice message will be your best friend here.
Collection agencies and bill collectors have a bad reputation because they are a business like any other whose goal is to generate profits for its shareholders; its their job to push you hard to pay. There are ways to deal with the debt and their behavior but it takes time and a certain investment in researching your rights. Try not to avoid the debt but find a way of dealing with it. The only way to stop the collection activity is to pay the bill or go bankrupt. If you can pay the bills in full, do so as soon as possible.
If payment of your bills is not an option due to extreme financial hardship, you may wish to explore bankruptcy by consulting with a Trustee in your local yellow pages. Going bankrupt will most certainly deal with the debt but since it’s detrimental to your credit rating, it should only be used as a last resort. Also, a Trustee is a court appointed agent for your creditors so even though you pay them for their service, the Trustee is looking after your creditors’ best interests. Your debts are wiped out but so are most of your assets subject to certain limited exceptions and your credit report shows the effect for 7-10 years.
Debt settlement should be considered as an alternative to bankruptcy since it is quickly becoming one of the newest and best options in Canada to retire debt quickly and ethically. A debt settlement company will act as your agent, and negotiate a settlement with your creditors. Once the settlement is paid, the balance is written off and your credit report is updated to reflect that the debt is finalized. The time frame to settle debt can be anywhere from 1 month to 36 months depending on your ability. This is often the least expensive, least damaging to your credit and the fastest path to debt freedom.
Remember that bill collectors make a living off of trying to scare and intimidate people so they can earn a big commission cheque. Consider the source when they call and don’t let bill collectors push you around, you have rights and can fight back and win!