Pitkin faces criticism protecting Ontarians from bill collectors
I watched the Marketplace episode on Friday, March 4th titled “Debt Collector Dread” when Brian Pitkin defended the conduct of the Ontario Government in protecting consumers from bill collectors. I believe that Ontario residents have virtually no protection from the Ontario Government when it comes to dealing with collection agencies. What do you think?
Bill in Stratford, Ontario
A. Like you, I watched the CBC Marketplace episode on bill collectors. At one point host Erica Johnson said that over the past five years the Ontario Government has received 20,000 complaints about collection agencies and there have been 14–count them, a mere14 prosecutions–resulting in less than $110,000 in fines. You can watch Erica Johnson put Brian Pitkin, the Ontario Registrar of Collection Agencies, on the spot in an excerpt from this Marketplace episode which is up on Youtube: Marketplace confronts Brian Pitkin over his job regulating ON bill collectors
My creditor is represented by lawyer Joel Miskin
Today I received a letter from a collection lawyer by the name of Joel Miskin informing me that his client, a credit card company, had obtained a Judgment against me and that I owed $3,300 and that interest was being added to this amount at the rate of 30% per year and that I should contact a collector at MJR to negotiate a settlement. What should I do?
A. If (1) you are not represented by a lawyer or an agent, and (2) you have received any letters from collection lawyer Joel Miskin, prior to November 15, 2010, demanding payment of monies from you, I would invite you to (i) call my office toll free for a free initial 10-minute telephone consultation, and I would invite you (ii) to fax to my office copies of any letters you have received from Mr. Miskin, especially ones demanding payment from you which are more than three pages in length.
Send Mark Silverthorn a copy of your draft statement of claim
I see that you have been posting on your website copies of draft statement of claims sent by collection lawyers on behalf of collection agencies. If I send you a draft statement of claim, is it possible that you will post in on your website?
Consumer in Kenora, Ontario
Starting in late October of 2010 my office began posting copies of draft statement of claims sent by collection lawyers on behalf of one or more collection agencies. If you have received a draft statement of claim from a collection lawyer I would inivte you to forward the original draft statemetn of claim to my Kitchener office at the address listed below:
Is it legal for a lawyer to send an Ontario resident a draft Statement of Claim?
I live in Sudbury, Ontario. I recently received a letter from a lawyer demanding payment on behalf of a creditor I have never heard of before. When I googled the name of this creditor I discovered it was a company located in the U.S. that described itself as a debt buyer.
The letter from the lawyer demanded payment of my account within 10 days of the date of the letter. The lawyer’s letter also contained a 3-page enclosure marked “DRAFT” that the lawyer referred to as a draft Statement of Claim. This enclosure would appear to be a form used in the Ontario Small Claims Court.
There is something fishy about this letter. I have been receiving phone calls from this law office demanding payment of my account. The people working in this office sound and act like collectors at a collection agency and not like employees in a law office. What do you suggest that I do?
I share your concerns about lawyers sending draft Statement of Claim collection letters to Ontario residents. Senior Ontario government officials such as Brian Pitkin, the Ontario Registrar of Collection Agencies, have indicated that they believe a lawyer’s draft Statement of Claim collection letter may be illegal for contravening the Ontario Debt Collectors Act, R.S.O. 1990, Ch. D.4. Section 1 of this Act reads as follows:
1. Every person, whether principal or agent, who prints or publishes a notice or form that is an imitation or a colourable imitation of any court form, and that is calculated to deceive the public by inducing the belief that such notice or form is a notice or form from a court, or is part of the process of a court, or who issues or makes use of such a notice or form in connection with a collection agency or otherwise, is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $20.
Furthermore, if you have received a draft Statement of Claim collection letter the lawyer might be sending you this letter to you at the request of a collection agency and not the creditor whose name appears on your letter. Last year Brian Pitkin, the Ontario Registrar of Collection Agencies, wrote a letter dated October 27, 2008, to all collection agencies in Ontario, advising them that it was unacceptable for a collection agency to hire a lawyer to send a draft Statement of Claim to a consumer on the collection agency’s behalf. Mr. Pitkin also indicated in his letter dated October 27, 2008, that it was unacceptable for a collection agency to hire a lawyer to send a demand letter to a consumer on behalf of a collection agency if the name of the collection agency was not disclosed in the lawyer’s collection letter.
Did collector break the law by making collection call prior to agency sending written notice to consumer?
I am sending you this Question further to our telephone conversation earlier today. I live in Toronto, Ontario. Today a collector from a collection agency called my residence. She confirmed my home address. This collector has also left voicemail messages at my residence the past few days. At no time have I received any written notice from the collection agency that employs this collector despite the fact that her employer would appear to know my correct home address.
I was under the impression that collection agencies operating in Ontario were supposed to send a written notice to a consumer prior to making collection calls. Is this collector breaking the law by calling me before her employer sends me a written notice advising me that their agency represents a particular creditor?
Under section 21 of Regulation 74 enacted under the Ontario Collection Agencies Act it is illegal for a collection agency to make a collection call to an Ontario resident unless the collection agency has sent a written notice, by regular mail, to the consumer six days prior to the collection call and this written notice is to include the name of the creditor, the balance owing, and the identity of the collection agency or collector demanding payment of a debt. After I received your message I telephoned the collector you referred to and I spoke with her. She confirmed that she had called your residence. You have advised me that this collector already had your correct home address when she called your residence. Therefore, one has to ask themself why this collector is calling your residence when you have not received a written letter from her employer as required under Ontario law?
My law office has received numerous complaints from Ontario consumers who have been receiving collection calls without first receiving a written notice from the collection agency that is attempting to collect the debt. It would certainly appear that some collection agencies operating in Ontario are trying to save money by failing to comply with the legal requirement to send a written notice to a consumer prior to making collection calls.
Unauthorized withdrawals from my bank account
I live in the Greater Toronto Area. Recently I gave a collection agency verbal permission over the phone to withdraw $100 from my bank account and apply these monies towards my outstanding account. Over the next 30 to 60 days the collection agency withdrew an additional $500 on two or more occasions from my bank account without my permission resulting in my bank account having a negative balance and my bank penalizing me with service charges. What can I do?
I recommend that a consumer never give a collection agency permission to withdraw monies from their bank account–neither verbal permission nor written permission. I have received a signficant number of complaints about collection agencies making unauthorized withdrawals from a consumer’s bank account after a consumer provided them with authorization to make a one-time withdrawal from the consumer’s bank account.
You can write a letter of complaint to the Ontario Registrar of Collection Agencies, as well as the creditor on whose behalf the collection agency is acting, and senior management at the collection agency. You can also contact the police and attempt to have fraud charges laid against the collection agency. If the police are reluctant to lay criminal charges you can arrange to attend at your local courthouse where criminal matters are heard and speak to the Justice of the Peace on duty that day. After you explain to the Justice of the Peace what has happened the Justice of the Peace may be willing to have criminal charges laid. When attempting to have criminal charges laid against a collection agency or collection agency employee it is important that you have all of the relevant information and supporting documentation including bank statements.
Stopping collection calls
How do I stop creditors from calling my number? A collection agency called me at home this morning at 7:36 am. Are there no restrictions when they can make collection calls?
The specific hours when a collection agency can legally call you will vary depending upon what province you live in. Each province and territory in Canada has a law that sets out specific restrictions on the conduct of collection agencies. As a general rule, these laws only apply to collection agencies. They do not appy to collectors employed by your creditor. In addition. provincial law regulating the conduct of collection agencies does not usually apply to law firms in Canada, a few of which operate like a traditional collection agency.
The first four chapters of my book titled A How-to Guide for Dealing with Collection Agencies in Canada (available on this website) sets out in significant detail how to stop, avoid or discourage collection calls. You might want to consider obtaining a copy of this book.
In the alternative, you may want to call me toll free for a free 10-minute consultation to discuss your situation. If you live in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, or Nova Scotia and you are receiving collection calls you may want to retain my firm, for a modest fee, to send a ‘cease and desist’ letter to a collection agency on your behalf. Once a collection agency receives a ‘cease and desist’ letter from my law firm it is then illegal for the collection agency to telephone you–the collection agency is limited to communicating directly with my office.
What to do about a collection letter I have received?
I received today a letter from a collection agency threatening to commence full legal action unless I pay them $1,700 due to them.
This is not a legitimate debt. This alleged debt arose out of a misunderstanding over an apartment in Toronto which I thought had been resolved.
From the letter it appears that the collection agency has reported this debt to a credit reporting agency and is prepared to sue me in Ontario Small Claims Court.
What do you think I should do? My wife is sick (cancer) and is staying home. The last thing I need, given her condition, is to have collection calls being made to my home. Thank you very much.