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Four Common Questions About Debt Collectors, Answered!

9 November 2012

With so much talk of our household debt, and how the debt-to-income ratio is now 163%, there also comes a lot of questions about debt collectors. Even if you don’t have any debt now (which is unlikely, given recent statistics,) the chances are good that at some point or another in your life, you have been. And that you’ve been so deep in debt, and so unable to pay it off, that a debt collector has called you; most likely, over and over again, because that’s what they do.

But there are laws in Canada governing how those collectors contact you, when they contact you, and even how often. While these laws, like most, were put in place to protect us, they can also confuse people. Some people hear only partial things about a certain law, and don’t hear about the rest, left to fill in the blanks themselves. And the fact that the laws vary in different provinces only confuses the matter even more.

But when it comes to debt collection, there are some general laws that you can follow, or cite back to the person on the other end of the phone, if you’re having a real problem with debt collectors. Here are the four most common questions, and the answers to them.

Are there certain times of the day debt collectors can contact you?

Unfortunately this question came about because debt collectors can be so aggressive in their tactics to get money owed to them that they can call you at obscene hours of the day – and even in the middle of the night. The good news is, that in every province (as far as we could find,) they’re not allowed to. While the exact hours differ, in Alberta they can call from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.; in Newfoundland and Labrador they can call from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.; and in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and P.E.I., they’re not allowed to call before 7 a.m. Sundays and statutory holidays are also typically not allowed.

How often can debt collectors contact you?

In addition to just calling at whatever hour they want, debt collectors are also known to call as many times as they want within one day. Luckily, this is an area where consumers have the most control; and if it’s a ringing phone that’s bothering you, you can stop it altogether.

That’s because in the Yukon, collectors aren’t allowed to call so many times that it could be considered harassment; and in Ontario they can’t contact you in any form more than three times a week (that includes emails and voice mails!) Alberta and Nova Scotia also don’t typically allow more than three contact points during any given week. But, how do you stop that phone from ringing altogether?

Ask them to stop. Yes, it’s really as easy as that. In most provinces, you can tell creditors that they’re not to contact you by any means other than written mail – and they must abide by it. If they don’t, you can report them to business and consumer bureaus.

Can a debt collector provide false information in order to receive their payment?

Some people have even had the unfortunate experience of a debt collector lying, and telling them that they were a lawyer in charge of the case; all in order to scare the person and get them to pay up faster. Take heart knowing that most provincial governments have stepped in, enacting laws that protect the consumer from just this kind of deception. Debt collectors simply must be truthful, at all times.

Can they track you down?

Collectors can be so adamant about collecting on their debt that they show up at your house, at your work, or anywhere else simply to attack you and demand that you pay the debt at that moment. Unfortunately, collectors can show up at your home (unless you go so far as to get a restraining order,) but they must keep within the confines of any contact laws – meaning that they can’t do so more than three times a week. There also aren’t a lot of laws concerning collectors just showing up at your hangouts, as it could be difficult to prove they came for harassment purposes, and people really are free in this country to go (reasonably) anywhere they choose.

Can they talk to other people about you?

Debt collectors are allowed to speak to other people about you, but they’re very limited in how they can do so, and what they’re allowed to say to the people when they’re talking to them. In most cases, they are only allowed to contact other people in order to ask for basic information, such as your phone number of your address if you’ve moved recently.

These are just some of the most common questions people have about debt collectors, but there’s undoubtedly many others. If you have a question about debt collection in your province, contact your MP to ask what the laws are in your area.

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