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Hello,

Thank you for taking the time to read about my ordeal. I am seeking any advice in dealing with a collection agency. I understand the choices I’ve made were extremely unwise which has led to my current situation. I live in my sister’s house and do not have any assets. I am mainly supported by ODSP (disability/social security). I also receive an extra income (few hundred dollars) through online marketing. The following details regarding my ordeal may not be necessary in answering my concerns (you can skip to blue area). I currently have 3 debts from 2 creditors (totaling approximately $1930) that are being handled by the same collection agency.

The first debt is from Enterprise (sent to collections on October 2016) for the deductible cost on car rental damage repairs ($563). The second debt is also from Enterprise (sent to collections on March 2017) for the remainder cost on car rental damage repairs ($689). This car rental damage incident happened on October 2016 and was completely my fault (no police report).

The third debt is from Budget (sent to collections on June 2017) for the deductible cost on car rental damage repairs ($593). This car rental damage incident happened on March 2017 with another vehicle in a parking lot where I was partially at fault (for which I provided a police report). The police estimated the damage repairs to be around $1000. I have yet to receive any further letters from Budget regarding the remainder cost on this car rental damage repairs. When I contacted Budget regarding this damage claim, they advised me they no longer have my file in office and to contact the collection agency. I was unable to get any further details regarding this damage claim. I strongly believe the remainder cost for this car rental damage repairs was paid by the other driver’s insurance policy.

According to the letters I’ve received, there is only interest being charged on the $689 debt (the other 2 debts show $0 for interest charges). To this date (October 27, 2017), I’ve been charged $133 in interest (exactly $10.32 per month) for this debt. It would not have been possible for the interest charges to be $133 unless they started accumulating since October 2016 (which doesn’t make sense since this debt was sent to collections on March 2017). I am not sure how the interest is being charged but that is not my top concern.

I have been ignoring the collection agency’s demand to pay for the debts until recently in August 2017 when I requested to be contacted only in writing through my e-mail. Below is a transcript of our conversation:

(August 10, 2017)
Me: Please accept my apology for the late response. I am looking to settle the debt through monthly payments. I am able to make payment of $50 per month based on my current financial situation (ODSP) until the debt is paid off. Please let me know what information you need from me.
(August 14, 2017)
Him: Please call me today at my number.
Me: I am being advised to be contacted only in writing. Please use this e-mail address (*****) to communicate with me.
Him: Payment outstanding of $1954.40. Please reply with your intentions concerning this balance.
Me: I am looking to settle the debt through monthly payments. I am able to make payment of $50 per month until the debt is paid off.
(August 15, 2017)
Him: Try to pay more.
(August 16, 2017)
Me: I cannot as I am disabled and under ODSP.
(August 17, 2017)
Him: Are you able to make your monthly payments via E-Transfer?
Me: Yes, I can.
Him: Appreciate your correspondence.
Would you be so kind as to email me proof of ODSP? Information as required per record keeping and treated as confidential.
Instructions for epayment:
email: ******
password: *****
Memo: *****
Requesting also date of initial payment for scheduling purposes.
Please remit requested documentation at your earliest convenience.
(August 25, 2017)
Me: Can you please confirm there will be no interests added monthly on top of the amount that's already owed.
Him: No interest – confirmed.
(September 13, 2017)
Me: Hi,
Sorry for the late response. I have attached proof of ODSP. I will make the initial payment on October 1, 2017. I would also like to request to no longer receive any paper/postal mails and be contacted only through my e-mail address (*****).
(October 1, 2017)
Me: Hi,
I am trying to send the E-transfer to you but I am not sure where to enter "Memo"?
Also I would like to request a signed contract detailing this proposal. Please send it to this e-mail.
(October 2, 2017)
Him: That’s fine, just send it as it is. Please also reply with the amount that you are sending.
Me: Can you please forward a signed contract detailing the accepted proposal. Thank you.
Him: I am done with this nonsense. Send the payment today or the interest goes back on.
Me: I've send it.
Him: $50? You need to send more than that.
Which account is the $50 to go toward or does it matter to you?
Me: Please check our previous e-mails as I have stated the amount I am able to pay. Please start with the Enterprise account as I may have a case with Budget for the $593 charge.
I have not had any further email conversation with him. On October 2, I received a call from an unknown number (which I believed to be him) and did not answer. On October 3, I received an email notification that the $50 epayment was accepted. Since then, I’ve been receiving phone calls from him every week (unknown number), leaving me voicemails to call him back. I’ve also recently received a letter from the collection agency, showing the interest charge is still accumulating from the $689 debt, and the $50 I’ve send was deducted from the $563 debt (which is now $513).

I would like to request advice on some of my concerns:
1) Does the collection agency have the right to continue harassing me by phone and mail letters despite requesting them to communicate by e-mail only (as per our e-mail conversation on September 13, 2017)?
2) Does the collection agency have the right to threaten me regarding interest charges (as per our e-mail conversation on October 2, 2017)?
3) Was there any loophole for the collection agency to deceive me into continue charging interest despite claiming not to (as per our e-mail conversation on August 25, 2017)?
4) If I send a cease and desist letter, will the interest charges stop?
5) If they take me to court and win, typically how much extra money can they demand (legal fees, etc)?
6) What is the limit in the amount of money they can take away from my “extra income” through court judgement?
 

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I don't have experience dealing with this, but I would be cautious about giving any personal information over either phone or email unless you are positive they are legitimate. When you say "him", is it always the same guy? According to this source, this could be a warning sign:

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/debt-collector-scammer-how-tell-the-difference.html

I also suggest looking through this information on what the debt collectors can and can't do. According to the first source:
"The advice we give people in collection is not to speak to them at all," says Cran. "People don't have to talk to them. They've got no standing."
http://canada.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/debt-collector-rules-1264/
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/4-things-to-know-if-you-re-harassed-by-debt-collectors-1.1153120
 

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How did you manage to damage 3 rental cars and after the second time why would you keep going?

Want to know your best solution? Pay it off.

You are receiving ODSP. Where is this money going? What are your expenses? You said you are also receiving money through some sort of online marketing. Where is this money going?

I would like to know these things.
 

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I would investigate the charges. Rental companies are notorious for inflating the costs of repair. I would make an offer to settle which is substantially below the billed amounts. Part of the offer would be a repayment scheme that you can manage.
 

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OP could talk to a bankruptcy trustee about a consumer proposal, but when people's incomes is debtor proof pensions, the usual advice is to ignore the debt collectors.

Sending $50 every month is just making life harder than it already is and it will never end.

Change your phone number. Change your banking information. Change your email password. Hang up when collectors call.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I appreciate the responses in helping me solve this matter in my best interests and apologize for triggering anyone.

I receive about $1500/month. The vast majority of my income goes towards rent, food and medical expenses.

As you can see, I am trying to pay it off. But it becomes frustrating when the collections completely ignores the accepted proposal and my request to be contacted by e-mail only.

Upon further investigation, I believe their intention was to reset the statue of limitations on the debt by making false claims:

Be careful not to restart the statute of limitations. Any time you take an action with an account, the statute of limitations is restarted. Making a payment, making a promise of payment, entering a payment agreement, or making a charge with the account can restart the statute of limitations. When the clock restarts, it restarts at zero, no matter how much time had elapsed before the activity.
-the balance
Do I have a case where they may violated my rights?

According to Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act, a collection agency can’t:
- use threatening, profane, intimidating or coercive language (Send the payment today or the interest goes back on)
- use undue, excessive or unreasonable pressure or harass you (Continue phone calling after making payment despite requesting to be contacted by e-mail only)
- charge you any fees (Interest)
- give false or misleading information to any person

I'd appreciate any advice in dealing with the collection agency under my best interests.
 

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Personally I think that part of the job of the debt collector is to harass you. I don't know about violating your rights, but I would consider that advice about not speaking with them. If they trick you into answering a call, just hang up as soon as you realize it's them. This is the same thing you'd do with any other abusive caller... it's your phone, hang up if you don't want to talk to the person on the line.

Postal mail is good enough for following up on your debts. In fact it's much better, because it provides a paper trail that can be used in any legal disputes.
 

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Personally I think that part of the job of the debt collector is to harass you. I don't know about violating your rights, but I would consider that advice about not speaking with them. If they trick you into answering a call, just hang up as soon as you realize it's them. This is the same thing you'd do with any other abusive caller... it's your phone, hang up if you don't want to talk to the person on the line.

Postal mail is good enough for following up on your debts. In fact it's much better, because it provides a paper trail that can be used in any legal disputes.
... unfortunately I don't think it'll solve the OP's problem. He already had made $50 per month proposal to the collector but the latter is not accepting that nor counter-proposing but instead using harassment and probably intimidation next. Continuous calls harassment is against the law but then there is no teeth in the law for that ... so just throwing this out there - can OP not seek legal aid for his dilemma?
 

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I'm just saying that they are not obligated to talk to people who harass them on the phone. In fact, they're not obligated to talk to anyone -- that's a basic right in Canada.

(This is true even in the extreme case of dealing with the police... you don't have to speak or answer questions other than, I believe, verifying your identity and supplying ID, license, registration).

Try contacting your telco to see if they can block harassing calls. Do they come from specific numbers? Your phone itself might have a feature to blacklist certain numbers. I believe my Android phone has a feature to reject calls from anonymous/no caller ID.

But yes I would see if there's a free legal advice clinic or perhaps a group at your local university that could provide some legal advice.

Maybe I'll also mention, I've received a couple debt collector calls on my 416 number, very likely due to someone giving a random/fake number. I have encountered some rude debt collectors on the phone. I immediately demand their full name, address, and name of their employer. Then I remind them that harassing phone calls are against the law and say that I will sue them if they keep bothering me. Ask for their supervisor, tell them it's against the law to make harassing phone calls. Now in my case the calls stop right away, but I'm also not the person they're trying to reach.

I would avoid engaging in any dialogue with these people but it may be worth speaking to a supervisor, reminding them that harassing phone calls are against the law.
 

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i just googled "pro bono lawyer debt collection" and came up with many hits

this being one that i know nothing about

https://www.probonoontario.org a site dedicated to helping people with legal needs who can't afford a lawyer

probably a better idea is to go to a non-profit or low-profit consumer debt company that specializes in helping people restructure their debt and pay it off

be careful and do your research as far as costs but i do believe there are many good non-profits who help people

you need some in person help to get this done right ... good luck
 

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Do I have a case where they may violated my rights?

According to Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act, a collection agency can’t:
- use threatening, profane, intimidating or coercive language (Send the payment today or the interest goes back on)
- use undue, excessive or unreasonable pressure or harass you (Continue phone calling after making payment despite requesting to be contacted by e-mail only)
- charge you any fees (Interest)
- give false or misleading information to any person

I'd appreciate any advice in dealing with the collection agency under my best interests.
I am a bit curious as to how you manage to rent cars, given your modest income. Do you have a credit card with which to make payment?

You ask if your rights have been violated. If we here say "yes", what are your plans? Sue for damages? Are you really interested in starting a lawsuit?

As to the suggested violations, I not see much ground for complaint. Let's examine each:

1. Pay now or interest gets added back. Seems like a reasonable mode of bargaining. At the low end of the spectrum of threatening, profane, intimidating or coercive language.

2. Continue phone calling after making payment despite requesting to be contacted by e-mail only. Unless Ontario legislation allows you to call the shots, I don't see much here. Usually the law bars things like calling you at work, after certain hours, etc. I doubt you can decree email contact only and the collection agency must come to heel.

3. Charge interest. I would say the only interest that can be charged is contractual interest. If your car rental agreement says you must pay interest at a certain rate on legitimate charges, that can (subject to the Canada Interest Act) be enforced. The collection agency cannot enforce its own claims to interest.

4. False or misleading information. Details please.

At the end of the day, there is little a collection agency can do except to be a pest. Unless the collection agency has taken an assignment of the debt - what lawyers call a chose in action - it cannot sue you. Few, if any, collection agencies engage in factoring.

It has been many years, but the only time I ever recall a collection agency coming at me, I simply told the collection agent (and I was right) that I do not owe anything your principal, so I will never pay a dime, so kindly trouble me no more. I said to the agent, kindly pass this on to your principal and tell them I am content to go to court. To prove my willingness to let the court decide, I volunteered that I would save them the cost of having me served with the writ of summons, saying I would accept and admit service. I never heard another word.

In your case, it sounds like you admit owing the money, so the rental agencies just might take you to Small Claims Court. But the amounts are so trifling, I doubt it. Not really worth paying a lawyer $400 an hour to chase a $500 debt. Moreover, the rental agency (and any lawyer whose advice is sought) must take a long view. Getting a judgment is the easy part. Collecting from a man of straw can be challenging. As well, there are those who have pots of money, but they manage to have nothing in their own name. They are the "professional debtors". They know how to live the good life on the money of others, while having no exigible assets. They have no difficulty in sitting through an examination in aid of execution or a judgment summons, convincing the presiding officer that they are the injured party.

Of course, you might end up with a creditor who just wants to prove its point and is willing to pay a lawyer who is a real bulldog. Lawyers who act in those cases are usually young guys wanting to ingratiate themselves to a particular client. You might take on a $500 collection for Enterprise for a 33% contingency fee if there's the prospect of getting some 'real work" from Enterprise. I did some of that.

When I was a recent call to the bar, a more seasoned veteran of the trenches said to me "Collections are a matter of imagination." He was right. You have to consider all possible avenues of collecting and show dogged determination. The best compliment I received on a collection file was when a debtor came to me and said: "Boy, if someone ever owes me money and doesn't pay, I want YOU as my lawyer. You are relentless." I was there at every turn. I sued and got judgment. I sent the sheriff to the guy's home to seize his car and TV, etc. I took out garnishing orders against his wages, bank accounts and other monies owed to him. If he transferred an asset to his wife, i started a fraudulent conveyance action. I hounded him mercilessly. He finally gave up and paid in full. I gained a good client, having proved I would go to bat when needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Ok. I am the sheep. I can in fact pay a little more and they know that...

"Send the payment today or the interest goes back on"
This makes no sense if they will continue to charge interest on the debt. It is entirely deceptive as I made the payment within minutes.
 

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You have two options. Either you pay it and restore your credit worthiness. Or you ignore it, scrapping any future possibilities of obtaining credit.

The debt is minor. If you can afford it, go ahead and pay it off. Negotiate with them offering them $1000 to clear all three debts. Collection agencies usually buy the bad debt for pennies to the dollar, so the profit margin is huge. 50% of the debt is still very profitable for them.

If you can't afford it, then you shouldn't be affording anything else. Cancel your phone, TV, and internet. Not only will you be able to save the money needed to pay off your debt, you will buy yourself some peace in the meantime since the collection agency can no longer reach you. And stop renting cars! LoL.
 

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Wow, all you needed is to go to your own insurance company before renting a car and get an add-on for about $25-$35 bucks per years and you are covered when renting a car. As for the rest I hope it works out, maybe workout a payment plan with them?
 
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