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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 – they 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 (the company owed the 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 a debtor at their place of employment
  • Obtain their home address or phone number
  • Make one attempt to contact the debtor when they have not been able to reach them at home
  • Contact the debtor’s employer to confirm their employment, business title and business address
  • Contact the debtor’s family, friends or employer in an attempt to obtain their home address or phone number
  • Call between 7 am and 9 pm, Monday to Saturday, at the debtor's local time
  • Call on a Sunday between 1 and 5 pm at the debtor’s local time
  • Take legal action against a debtor

Collection agencies cannot:

  • Call on a statutory holiday
  • Continue to contact you if the debt has been properly disputed
  • Collect or try to collect without holding a valid debt collection agent’s license
  • Place a collect call to a debtor
  • Ask that money be sent in a way that would cost the debtor money (i.e., by registered mail)
  • Continue telephone contact if the debtor has properly requested communication in writing
  • Give the debtor a document that is made to look like an official court document when it is not
  • Use threatening, indimidating, or coercive language, or intimidate you

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

Get information on Paying back a loan