No one wants to be in debt. But there are times, especially when jobs are scarce and the economy is shaky, when your income simply isn’t enough to cover all of your expenses. During tough periods, it is sometimes necessary to determine which bills must be paid now and which bills can wait. Shelter and food are clearly top priorities while other debts or bills may have to be put aside until your financial situation improves.
The companies you owe money to have many different options to collect from you. Some companies may be aggressive in their approach to collect while others may be more understanding.
Although there can be many factors affecting debt and creditors, we’ve narrowed it down to the 4 key areas you should know when creditors or collection agencies contact you.
1.Talk to the creditors. Whether it’s credit card companies, banks, stores, or others, many of them would rather come to an agreement to receive a reduced amount than receive nothing at all. Speaking to the creditors can often prevent your matter being turned over to a debt collection agency. If you are unsure how to approach your creditors, a law firm with expertise in this area can often help.
2.Know your rights. If a company refuses to negotiate and seeks full payment, you have rights and protections under the law:
Anyone who is trying to collect a debt must follow the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. Third party collectors, bailiffs, and debt repayment agents must be licensed by Consumer Protection BC; and
Any collector must tell you, before any further conversation, the name of the creditor they are acting for and the exact amount of the debt.
3. Know what creditors and collectors are allowed to do. There are specific rules and laws about what debt collectors are allowed to do. For example, they are allowed to:
Call you at work to ask for your home address, phone number and email address if they don’t already have it;
Try to contact you at work to collect a debt, only once and only if they haven’t been able to contact you at home;
Contact your employer, family, friends, acquaintances and neighbours, but only to ask them for your home address, phone number or email address. However, none of these people are legally obligated to give out this information;
Contact you between 7 am and 9 pm, Monday to Saturday and between 1 and 5 pm on Sunday; and
Take legal action against you to collect the debt.
4. Know what collectors are not allowed to do. Just as there are laws that dictate what creditors are allowed to do, there are also rules about what they must not do. The list below is not complete, but it does address the most common concerns. Creditors and collectors must not:
Contact you on a statutory holiday;
Continue to contact you after you have formally informed them that you are contesting the debt;
Continue to contact you by phone after you have followed proper procedure to request that all contact be in writing; and
Give you any document that looks like an official court document, but isn’t.
Owing money can be very stressful, even if you believe the debt has been unfairly applied. The last thing you need, or deserve, is to be harassed by creditors or their collection agencies. DBM has a lot of experience in this field and we believe your best course of action is to get legal advice so you fully understand your rights and obligations. When in doubt, contact DBM. We are here to help.