Know your rights against a debt collector
Published Monday, January 31, 2011 6:13PM PST
Andrew King recently found a mysterious voice mail waiting for him at work. The caller advised she had a very important message for Andrew and that it was very important that he return the call.
The caller didn't say who she represented or what it was about so Andrew Googled the phone number and found it was from Total Credit Recovery -- a collection agency.
Andrew thought it was weird because he pays all his bills on time. But he did the right thing: he called the collection agency back
It turned out the agency made a mistake.
"They transferred me to the wrong person, I'm sorry about that," the original caller told him.
It was a happy ending but it made Andrew wonder about the rights collections agencies have.
Consumer Protection BC regulates collection agencies. Manjit Bains the Vice President of Corporate Relations with Consumer Protection BC says inquiries about collection agencies account for 20 per cent of all the calls: the largest of any business group.
"They must let the debtor know who's calling which collection agency they are from which creditor they are representing and the - amount of actual debt that's owing," Bains said.
Andrew can't understand why he was called at work
"I thought that was illegal in the first place. Aren't they supposed to phone me at home?" he said.
Turns out debt collectors can make one attempt to call you at work -- if they haven't been able to reach you at home -- to get your home address or phone number. And they can confirm with your employer your employment, business title and business address.
And there are rules about when debt collectors can call too.
"They can call Monday to Saturday from 7 AM to 9 PM and Sundays from 1 PM and 5 PM and not at all on statutory holidays," she said.
Consumer Protection BC advises the first thing you should do is to request the collection agency only contact you in writing. That stops the phone calls.
Consumer Protect BC also investigates complaints especially where you are disputing the claim that you owe money.
What you should never do is ignore the call. Andrew is happy he did not.
"I'm really glad I called them right away I felt 50 pounds lighter really glad I did," he said.
To learn more about your rights and obligations when it comes to debt collectors you can look on the new website debtrightsbc.ca
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Chris Olsen