6 Ways a Debt Collector CAN’T Treat You
We’re all familiar with the “power trip”. It’s that dreadful state of mind where a person in authority allows their position to go to their heads – a condition often seen among employers, politicians and police officers. But they’re not the only ones who act this way. Debt collectors often act as if they have more power than they really have, violating the rights of the people who owe them money. Unfortunately, too many people are unaware of their rights. If you’re dealing with debtors or know someone who is, make sure to acquaint yourself with Ontario collection laws. The fact that you’re in debt doesn’t mean you have to be tortured for it.
The Face of a Bully
Anyone who’s ever lost sleep because of a persistent debt collector will tell you that they’re bullies. It’s not an exaggeration. We all know what bullying entails, and many of collection agencies use these tactics to scare the people into paying their liabilities. You’ve probably heard a story or two from someone who had to endure such treatment. If not, here’s what it looks like.
There’s something about repetition that just makes people crack. Drawing inspiration from this behaviour, it’s not unusual for debt collectors to keep calling someone until that person magically coughs up the money they owe. They may do so from morning to evening, and on weekdays and weekends. There’s no restraint with some debtors.
Sadly, the constant phone calls isn’t the method they use to scare people. Repetition comes with a side of aggression as well. Not only will they ask about the debt, they’ll go further by implying or suggesting consequences that they don’t even have the right to make. This behaviour is often all it takes to cause anxiety among people with financial problems.
The behaviour doesn’t end with mere intimidation. Although rare, you’ll have some debt collectors who are downright abusive, unleashing verbal tirades in the form of swearing, yelling and threats. Some may argue that such language is what will spur stubborn people to pay their bills. However, one must remember that not everyone is deliberately avoiding their payments – some individuals have real trouble managing their debts.
When they overstep boundaries
Fortunately, collection laws in Ontario (which are also present all across Canada) clearly state that the bully behaviour that debtors sometimes display is illegal. There are some actions which they can undertake (which we’ll discuss in a bit). However, it’s good to know which ones they must refrain from.
1. Call you during off-hours
Debt collectors who go rogue often ignore the concept of “business hours”. If they operate late or early, they might call you then. It’s easy to see why people lose sleep when collections call (in addition to stress of having too much debt). However, Ontario law makes it clear that a collection agency can’t call you between 9pm and 7am from Monday to Friday, or on Sundays unless it’s from 1pm – 5pm. And holidays are out of the question.
2. Call after you’ve requested them not to call you
There’s a law that works as a restraining order against collection agencies. Essentially, they’re not supposed to call you if you’ve sent out a request for them to stop contacting you. That obviously doesn’t excuse your debts and there are limits to this. Regardless, the agencies have to respect your right for privacy, and cease the repeated calls if you’ve submitted this request in writing.
3. Use obscene or insulting language
Language of profane or abusive nature is an absolute no-no. Any form of verbal abuse, whether it’s F-bombs, references to bodily organs, or prejudiced statements, is unacceptable. In fact, you have the right to fight this behaviour by speaking with a lawyer. Hundreds of complaints are filed against collection agencies because of these tirades, and you can count on the law to protect you from ongoing harassment as well.
4. Contacting outside parties about you
Collection agencies are obliged to keep a certain level of disclosure with you. They can contact others about your debt situation, but only on specific grounds. For example, they can contact your employer once to obtain your employment info, but are otherwise prohibited from doing so. They’re also not allowed to contact other debt collectors, financial institutions or even family members about your debts. The details should remain between you and the debt collector.
5. Inflating their authority or power
Collection agencies are not supposed to overstate their authority. In other words, they can’t make threats such as arrests, jail time or other consequences because you haven’t paid off your debts. Although they work with the law, they are NOT the law – only a judge can make such decisions. All they can do is contact you about your situation, assuming they still have permission to do so.
6. Falsify information about your debts
Some debt collectors will embellish your debts. They may say that you owe more than you really owe, or exaggerate the severity of your situation. Again, it’s illegal to make these claims. The collection agency is responsible to send you a notice, that tells you the name of the person/business you owe, the amount that’s due, and the name of the collection agency itself. None of this information is to be changed since it is illegal to do so.
What’s in their Jurisdiction
Collection agencies aren’t supposed to be the “bad guys”. There are rigid and defined boundaries from which they must operate, and these restrictions are set in place to protect you, the consumer. However, it is still their job to collect debts that have gone unpaid. And that means they can still take appropriate action when necessary.
What they’re allowed to do
- They can contact you – As we’ve mentioned before, they can contact you (more than once) as long as you haven’t requested them to stop. With that said, you still owe the debt, and will indeed face more serious consequences if you don’t pay.
- They can warn you tactfully – We established earlier that a collection agency can’t harass or threaten at any point in time. However, they can bring your payment record and deadlines to your attention in a civilized manner.
- They can sue – A debt collector can sue you for outstanding debt, providing enough time goes by without receiving payment. It’s not a given that they’ll take this course, but it is an option they may consider.
Draw the Line
Debt collection agencies can come across as unethical. Their “bully” tactics, which may involve a flood of phone calls and verbal attacks, can certainly put them in a category of organizations the world could do without (along with insurance companies). If you have collection agencies contacting you, remember the list of Ontario collection laws mentioned above, which they can’t break.
It is their responsibility to collect money owed to them, but they have to do so without violating your rights. If they don’t respect that, you can distance yourself from them by requesting them not to call you, and you seek legal action if they harass you. There are obligations on both sides, but the process doesn’t have to turn ugly.