Overview

In Ontario, collection agencies must be registered and must follow the rules laid out in the Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act and its regulations.

The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services registers and regulates these agencies.

Your rights

Whether you owe money or not, a collection agency cannot harass you and must follow strict rules under the law.

If they break the rules, you can file a complaint with the ministry.

Their responsibilities

How they should contact you

In Ontario, registered collection agencies must send you a private letter by mail or email. Their letter must include:

  • information on how much you owe and the type of product or service that put you in debt
  • the name of the business/individual you owe money to
  • the amount of the debt on the date it was first due and payable and, if different, the amount currently owing
  • notification that a breakdown of the current amount owing will be provided upon request
  • the name of the collection agency and collector who are demanding payment of the debt
  • that the collection agency is registered in Ontario
  • the contact information of the collection agency, including the full mailing address and telephone number and, where available, email address and fax number
  • a disclosure statement, which explains your rights and the steps you can take if you think the agency has broken the law

After the agency sends the letter

They must wait 6 calendar days before they next attempt to collect payment of the debt.

“Contact” means the agents must actually speak with you, email you or leave you a voicemail. If you don’t answer the phone and the agents don’t leave a message, it doesn’t count as contact. A letter sent by regular mail also does not count as a contact.

Who they are allowed to contact

You:

  • on a Sunday between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. local time
  • on a Monday to Saturday, between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time

Your spouse, family member, relative, neighbour or friend if:

  • that person has guaranteed to pay your debt, or
  • you’ve given the collection agency written permission to do so, or
  • they are only looking to confirm your contact information

Your employer:

  • 1 time only to confirm your employment status, or
  • if the employer has guaranteed your debt, or
  • if you’ve given the agency written permission to contact them, or
  • if the call is about a court order or an automatic deduction from your salary

They are also allowed to do a credit search on you and register the debt to your credit report – which may negatively impact your credit score.

What they are not allowed to do

  • charge you any fees
  • pressure or harass you
  • contact you on a statutory holiday
  • use threatening, profane, intimidating or coercive language
  • contact you more than 3 times in a 7-day period without your consent
  • give false or misleading information to any person, including your family, friends or employer
  • recommend that a creditor take legal action against you without notifying you of their intention to make this recommendation

If you owe money

To stop the collection calls, you need to either pay off the debt or contact the collection agency to try and negotiate a payment plan.

If you need help paying the debt, consider contacting a credit counselling service, such as:

Debt settlement companies

Debt settlement services are different than credit counsellors. They are for-profit companies and charge a fee to help you negotiate a plan to repay your debts.

Always take the time to understand your contract and beware of companies that:

  • charge large, upfront fees
  • say they can reduce your debt by 50% or more
  • say they can get collection agencies to stop calling you
  • claim that their program is approved by the government
  • claim that if you work with them there will be no negative effect on your credit report
  • charge a cancellation fee if you want to end your contract before the end of its term and may also not refund the money you paid them

If you don’t owe any money

If you believe that you do not owe money at all, you can contact the collection agency and let them know.

The law says that a collection agency cannot contact you without your consent if you:

• write to the collection agency and say that you dispute the debt; and,

• suggest that the matter be taken to court

Make sure you are able to prove that the collection agency received your communication (such as by using e-mail, certified mail, a courier, etc.). Be aware that the collection agency could advise the creditor to take legal action.

If the collection agency continues to call, file a complaint.

If the amount owed is wrong

If you disagree with the amount owed, you may wish to contact the collection agency or the creditor to get more information. Collection agencies must provide you with a breakdown of the current amount owing, upon request.

When to file a complaint

You can file a complaint if your rights have been violated by a collection agency.

If you’re not sure if your rights have been violated, contact us. The quickest way to get a response to your questions is to contact us by phone – but you can also contact us by email, mail or fax.

How to file a complaint

Filing a complaint with us cannot get you out of paying your debt. Regardless of how long it’s been or the conduct of the collection agency, you remain responsible for money you owe.

Step 1: inform the collection agency of your complaint

You should advise the agency of your complaint by email, letter, or phone before you file a complaint with us.

Make sure your email or letter includes:

  • the name of the agency
  • how your rights were violated
  • if you’ve reached out to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services

If you advise the agency by phone, make sure to note the date and details of the conversation.

Step 2: submit a complaint to us

If the collection agency does not resolve your complaint to your satisfaction, submit your complaint to us online. If you require an alternate format, please contact us.

After you submit your complaint, we:

  • review the complaint
  • determine if the collection agency has broken the rules
  • respond to most complaints, by email, mail or phone within 15 business days

Next steps

If we have any questions or need more information from you, we will contact you by email, mail or phone.

If we find that the agency:

  • did not break any rules, we will notify you by email, mail or phone
  • broke the rules, the registrar will determine the appropriate administrative action
Updated: October 26, 2021
Published: September 29, 2014