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Debt Collection Industry

New PIAC report, “All Along the Watch Tower: A Review of the Canadian Consumer Debt Collection Industry”

OTTAWA, March 30, 2015–Questionable practices by collection agencies, flawed incentive models imposed by creditors and the need for enhanced communication methods by government agencies all may contribute to a frustrating experience for Canadian consumers dealing with the debt collection industry. The new Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) report, entitled, “All Along the Watch Tower: A Review of the Canadian Consumer Debt Collection Industry,” examined the conduct of debt collection agencies in Canada and the impact on consumers. The report recommends a series of measures to provide enhanced protection for consumers, greater guidance for debt collection agencies, and suggested areas where government agencies can increase transparency and streamline debt collection regulations.

“An enhanced effort is required from all stakeholders to improve Canada’s debt collection industry, and changes to consumer protection provisions can act as a catalyst,” noted Jonathan Bishop, PIAC’s Research Analyst and author of the report. “New rules are required to level the playing field between consumers with debt and the debt collection industry in Canada,” concluded Bishop.

The report recommends the distribution of a notice from government consumer protection agencies explaining to consumers their rights when they are contacted by a debt collection agency. Also the report suggests calls between debt collectors and consumers be recorded, and the relevant consumer affairs agency review random samples of these recordings for the protection of all parties and to ensure industry best practices. Debt collection industry regulators should introduce annual transparency reports related to debt collection complaints. These transparency reports could publicly outline how many complaints were brought forward against each individual collection agency, as well as against each original creditor. PIAC’s other recommendations included the introduction of universal standards concerning the provision of written notice of a debt before debt collection calls can commence, the ending of collection calls once the identity of a non-debtor has been confirmed, as well as the right for consumers to stop collection calls and request subsequent communication by other means.

“As Canadian consumers become more indebted, it is reasonable to expect a growing number will be contacted by a debt collection agency. To ensure future contact by collection agencies is less intimidating for consumers, we encourage all stakeholders to review the suggestions and evidence we have gathered,” noted Bishop.

To see the full report, please consult the following link:

All Along the WatchTower EN

To view the report in French, please consult the following link:

All Along the WatchTower FR (2)

PIAC received funding from Industry Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-Profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations to prepare the report. The views expressed in the report are not necessarily those of Industry Canada or the Government of Canada.

For more information please contact:

Jonathan Bishop
Research & Parliamentary Analyst
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
(613) 562-4002×23
jbishop@piac.ca
www.piac.ca

John Lawford
Executive Director & General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
(613) 562-4002×25
lawford@piac.ca
www.piac.ca

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