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Consumer Rights and Debt

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If You Can’t Pay Your Debts

If you can’t pay off your debts, here are a few ideas that might help you get out of debt:

  • Cut back on things you don’t really need. Look at your monthly expenses to see if there are things you are paying for that aren’t essential. This will give you more money to pay off your debt.
  • If you have credit cards, stop using them. Credit cards charge very high interest rates.
  • You can try to increase your income enough to make all of your monthly payments by getting a second or part-time job. Your family may be able to help by providing a financial loan or gift.

Contact your creditors, outline your situation and ask them to suggest ways to help solve your problem. They may agree to a better deal that lets you pay your debts by charging a lower interest rate, writing off interest or giving you more time to pay.

Be careful about agreeing to repayment schedules that may be too difficult and make sure you’re not borrowing more money or putting off other creditors, and getting charged more interest as a result, just to satisfy the creditors.

If you have been unable to get your debt under control, get some free advice from a debt counselling service. The Credit Counselling Service of BC is a non-profit organization that has counsellors who can help you come up with a plan to:

  • Manage all of your bills and living expenses.
  • Explore your options to get out of debt.
  • Repay your debts with one manageable monthly payment.
  • Reduce the interest you’re paying.

Learn more about credit cards with this animation from People’s Law School.

Collection agencies

Sometimes when you can’t pay your debts, the creditor (a person or business to whom you owe money) will use a collection agency to get the money from you. A collection agency is a business that pursues debt payments. For doing this, the agencies get a fee or percentage of the money owed.

In BC, anyone who is trying to collect a debt must follow proper debt collection practices. If you are being contacted by a debt collector, here are some tips to help you understand what is and what isn’t permitted under the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act

Collection agencies can:

  • Contact you  where you work to get your home address, phone number or email address
  • Contact your employer to confirm your employment, position or title and business address
  • Contact your family, friends or employer to try to get your home address, phone number or e-mail address
  • Call you between 7 am and 9 pm, Monday to Saturday, at your local time
  • Call you on a Sunday between 1 and 5 pm at your local time
  • Take legal action against you

Collection agencies cannot:

  • Collect payment of debt from you without first notifying you in writing about the debt
  • Contact you more than once at your workplace to get your contact information 
  • Contact your family or friends for any reason except to get your contact information 
  • Call you on a statutory holiday
  • Continue to contact you after you have told them (in writing) that you are taking the matter to court 
  • Collect or try to collect debt without holding a valid debt collection agent’s license
  • Place a collect call to you 
  • Ask that you pay the debt in a way that would cost you money (i.e., by registered mail)
  • Continue phoning you after you have properly requested communication in writing
  • Continue contacting you if you have hired a lawyer to deal directly with the collection agency
  • Give the debtor a document that is made to look like an official court document when it is not
  • Use threatening, intimidating, or coercive language against you or against your family, friends or employer 

If you have inquiries or concerns about a debt collection agency, contact Consumer Protection BC . 

Get information on Paying back a loan