Getting calls from a debt collector can be stressful, but we’re here to help you understand what collectors are allowed (and not allowed) to do.
(Please note that changes were made to the debt collection and repayment regulation, effective April 2016. All of the information below applies to April 1, 2016 and beyond.)
Consumer Protection BC is responsible for enforcing BC’s debt collection law (which covers both debt collectors who are located in BC, as well as those who are contacting BC residents about debts). The debt collection law in BC speaks to how debt collectors communicate with debtors and who is required to be licensed with us.
It’s important to remember debt collectors are allowed to contact you about the debts you owe (once the debt is due and payable, not before). The information below is designed to help you know more about your rights and responsibilities when it comes to debt collection communication practices.
We can help you in other ways, too, such as stopping calls about a debt that isn’t yours or getting a collection agency to contact you in writing only (and not by telephone).
How can we help?
- A debt collector is calling me – what should I do?
- Can collectors just start calling me?
- What are debt collectors allowed, and not allowed to do?
- How can I get a collection agency to stop calling me?
- How do I get details about a debt?
- How can I dispute an alleged debt?
- What can I do if a debt collector is calling me about someone else’s debt?
- Did you know that third-party collectors are required to be licensed in BC?
- How can I make a complaint against a debt collector?
- Where can I go for more debt collection information?
First, take a deep breath and remember you’re not alone. Debt is an issue for many British Columbians (did you know that one out of every five people who contact us are calling about a debt-related matter?) and there are laws in place to ensure collectors are following set communications rules and procedures. (That said, please don’t forget that debt collectors are allowed to contact you about the debts you owe.)
If you get a call from a debt collector, we suggest you answer the phone and talk to the person on the other end as ignoring the calls will not make the problem go away. When you speak to the debt collector, remember you have the right to receive details about the debt and request communication in writing only. All of the forms mentioned in this blog post is located on our website here.
Keep in mind that a collector must send you a written notice about your debt before they start calling you. There are two exceptions to this rule:
- They can make a reasonable effort to call you before sending you a written notice about your debt only to confirm your correct contact information.
- If they have bought the debt from the creditor, they then become the creditor and aren’t required to send you a written notification first (which means that they can begin calling you right away).
How do you know if they are a creditor or a collector? Ask them.
Here’s a summary:
|Call you on a Sunday between 1 and 5 p.m.|
Call you at work to request your home address, phone number and email address (if they don’t have it)
Make one attempt to contact you at work to collect a debt (but only if they have your home contact information and have been unable to make contact)
Contact your employer in certain circumstances
Contact a member of your family or household, relative, neighbour, friend or acquaintance to try to get your home address, phone number or email
|Call you after 9 p.m. or before 7 a.m.|
Discuss details of your debt with someone else (unless they have your permission)
Collect more than what is owing on the debt (aside from interest at the rate in your original credit agreement)
Contact you in a way that costs you money
Use threatening, profane or intimidating language
Exert undue, excessive or unreasonable pressure to collect a debt
Publish or threaten to publish your failure to pay (except to a credit reporting agency)
By law, you can request for a collection agency to contact you in writing only. To do this, fill out a form we created called “Request Communication in Writing Only” and send it to the collection agency by registered mail, fax or email. After they receive this letter, they are not allowed to contact you by telephone. We have more information on this topic in this blog post – Asking a debt collector to only communicate with you in writing: what you need to know.
Collectors can make a reasonable effort to call you before a written letter is sent, but only to confirm your correct contact information. They must send you a letter with the details of your debt, which includes details about who the original and current owners of the debt are, and how much is owing.
You have the right to dispute an alleged debt. To do this, fill out a form we created called “Dispute a Debt” and send it to the collection agency and the original creditor by registered mail, fax or email. After they receive this letter, they must stop communicating with you (expect for communications necessary to start a legal proceeding).
Tell the debt collector you are not the person they are looking for and ask for the calls to stop. Be prepared to provide details to confirm that you are not the person they’re calling for, such as your addresses and birth date. We created a form you can fill out called “Stop the Calls Because You Are Not the Debtor” and send to the collection agency by registered mail, fax or email.
In British Columbia, anyone who is trying to collect a debt must follow the proper debt collection practices within the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. In addition, third-party collectors (those collecting debts on behalf of the original creditor), bailiffs and debt repayment agents are required to be licensed by Consumer Protection BC.
There are a few steps to take:
- Try to resolve the issue with the collection agency, and give them time to fix their mistake.
- If the issue continues, collect documentation to support your complaint (such as a picture of your phone, showing what time the collector called).
- File a complaint with our office – here’s how you start a complaint. Please include proof that you first tried to resolve the issue with the debt collector.
There is a lot more to know about BC’s debt collection law, including more information about your rights and responsibilities. To learn more, visit our website page with debt collection information or feel free to post a question in comments below.
Asking a debt collector to only communicate with you in writing: what you need to know
New things to know about BC’s debt collection laws
What would you do? A guide to being a savvy consumer: debt collection calls