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How to deal with collection agencies

(NC) If you are still feeling the pressure of paying bills from Christmas, you might soon receive an unwanted call from a collection agency. When bills go unpaid for an extended period of time, creditors will often hire these types of companies to collect money that is owed.

Rick Hancox, chief executive officer with the newly formed provincial Financial and Consumer Services Commission, offers consumers tips on how to deal with collection agencies. “First of all, don't panic. The agency isn't in business to make your life miserable - it just wants to collect the money you owe to its client.”

“It may be helpful to know that your attitude towards paying the debt can greatly influence the amount of cooperation that you will receive from the collection agency,” said Mr. Hancox. “If you have extenuating circumstances that caused financial hardship – a lay-off, disability, family emergency – explain your situation to the collector, for the record. However, it is best to arrange a date to pay the debt in full, if possible.”

If unable to pay the debt in full, offer to send a statement of monthly obligations and income. This will demonstrate to the agency that you wish to cooperate. This statement will show the agency where your money goes every month, and is often very helpful in making payment arrangements.

Debts should not be treated lightly. Stick to your arrangement with the collection agency. Do not bounce a cheque or miss a payment. If for some reason you cannot meet the arranged payment, call the collector in advance.

All collection agencies and individual collectors are required to be licensed by the Financial and Consumer Services Commission in New Brunswick. The commission also provides consumers with protection from harassment. When dealing with a collection agency, you should never feel harassed.

Agencies and its employees cannot:

• use threatening, intimidating or coercive language;

• call your place of employment, or speak to your employer;

• divulge information about the debt to anyone other than you;

• call you before seven a.m. or after nine p.m. Monday through Friday, before one p.m. or after five p.m. on a Sunday, and on a holiday; and

• make threats for which they have no legal authority. (For example, in New Brunswick, your wages cannot be garnished for this reason.)

Additional information on your rights when dealing with collection agencies can be found on the Financial and Consumer Service Commission's website at www.fcnb.ca/collections.

If you feel that you are being harassed, or that any of the above regulations have been violated by a collection agency, contact the Financial and Consumer Services Commission at 1 866 933-2222 to file a complaint.

www.newscanada.com

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