What Happens If You Don't Pay Collections in Canada?

Get insights on what happens if you don't pay collections in Canada. Find out more about your options.
Bruce Hodges
May 2, 2024
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What Happens If You Don't Pay Collections in Canada?

Dealing with debt can be a stressful and overwhelming experience, especially when collection agencies get involved. If you find yourself in a situation where you can't pay your debts, it's essential to understand the consequences and potential actions that may follow.

When you don't pay a collection agency, they have the right to take legal action against you to recover the debt. This can lead to further financial and legal troubles, including wage garnishment, freezing your bank account, or seizing certain property to realize the value of the debt owed. Understanding the process and your rights can help you navigate the situation more effectively and make informed decisions about how to address your debts.

In this blog, we will explore what happens if you don't pay collections in Canada, and what your rights are in a collections situation.

Key Highlights

  • If you don't pay a collection agency in Canada, you could end up in court and face legal consequences.
  • Collection agencies can contact you to collect the debt assigned to them by your original creditor or the debt they have purchased.
  • When contacted by a collection agency, it's important to verify the debt and know your rights under Canadian law.
  • Ignoring collection efforts can have immediate impacts on your credit score and potential legal actions against you.
  • Strategies for dealing with collections include negotiating a payment plan and considering debt consolidation.

Understanding Collections in Canada

Debt collection refers to the process of pursuing payment for an unpaid debt. Collection agencies are companies or organizations that specialize in collecting overdue debts on behalf of creditors. When a debt is assigned to a collection agency, it means that the original creditor has contracted the agency to collect the debt.

Collection accounts can appear on your credit report, indicating that you have defaulted on a debt. This negative information can stay on your credit report for several years and may affect your ability to obtain credit in the future, even if you resume regular payments.

How Debts End Up in Collections

Debts can end up in collections when the debtor fails to make timely payments or becomes delinquent on their financial obligations. This can occur with various types of debts, such as credit card bills, personal loans, or medical bills.

When a debt goes unpaid for a certain period of time, the original creditor may choose to assign or sell the debt to a collection agency. In this case, the collection agency acts as an agent for the original creditor and receives a portion of the collected funds as compensation.

Alternatively, the original creditor may choose to sell the debt to a collection agency. In this scenario, the collection agency becomes the new owner of the debt and is responsible for collecting the full amount owed. The original lender writes off the debt as a loss and transfers the rights to collect the debt to the collection agency, making them the new lender.

Initial Steps to Take When Contacted by a Collection Agency

If you are contacted by a collection agency regarding an outstanding debt, it's essential to take certain measures to protect your rights and ensure you have accurate information about the debt. 

Here are the first steps to take if you get contacted by a collection agency:

Request Written Notice

Collection agencies are required by law to provide written notice before attempting to contact you by phone. This notice should include information such as the debt amount, the name of the original creditor, and the collection agency's contact information.

Keep Records

Maintain a record of all interactions with the collection agency, including phone calls, letters, and any other forms of communication. This will be helpful if there are any disputes or discrepancies in the future.

Verify The Debt

Once you’ve received written confirmation, verify if the debt is within the statute of limitations and matches your records. Stay vigilant for any discrepancies in the information provided and make sure to provide a valid address and phone number where they can reach you. Understanding your debt is crucial before considering any payment or negotiation options.

Get Familiar With Your Rights Under Canadian Law

Under Canadian law, consumers have rights when dealing with collection agencies. These rights include:

  • The right to request validation of the debt
  • The right to dispute the debt
  • Protection against harassment or deceptive practices.

It's essential to know that collection agencies must follow specific guidelines outlined in the law, such as not contacting you at unreasonable times or disclosing your debt to unauthorized parties. Understanding your rights empowers you to navigate the debt collection process more effectively and protect yourself from unfair practices.

Consequences of Ignoring Collection Efforts

Ignoring collection efforts in Canada can have serious repercussions, including:

Negative Impact on Credit Score

When debts are sent to collection agencies and left unresolved, it can significantly harm your credit score. A lower credit score can make it harder to secure loans, credit cards, or even housing in the future.

Legal Action

Ignoring collection efforts may lead to legal action, including lawsuits filed against you by creditors or collection agencies. If the court rules in favor of the creditor, you may face wage garnishment, where a portion of your income is taken to repay the debt, or liens on your assets.

Increased Debt

Over time, ignored debts can accumulate additional fees, penalties, and interest, making the total amount owed much higher. This can make it even more challenging to repay the debt and may prolong financial distress.

Aggressive Collection Tactics

Debt collectors may resort to increasingly aggressive tactics to recoup the debt if their initial attempts are ignored. While there are regulations in place governing their behaviour, they may still employ tactics like frequent calls, threats, or contacting friends, family, or employers in pursuit of payment. Although you can report any illegal behaviour, this kind of action can cause stress and take a toll on your well-being.

Strategies for Dealing with Collections

Dealing with collections can be a challenging and stressful process. Generally, ignoring collection calls or attempts to contact you will only make things worse. Keeping communication open is important, even if you don’t think you can pay the debt. If you can’t pay your debt in full, you can still start the discussion and explore potential negotiations or payment plans.

Debt consolidation may be a viable option if you're struggling to manage multiple debts or dealing with collections calls. By combining your debts into a single loan or payment plan, you can simplify your finances and potentially lower your overall interest rates. This debt consolidation strategy can help you regain control of your financial situation by streamlining your debt repayment efforts and making it easier to keep track of payments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can collection agencies take you to court in Canada?

Collection agencies can take legal action if debts are not resolved. In Canada, they may sue to collect outstanding amounts, leading to court judgments and potential wage garnishments.

How long can a debt be collected in Canada?

In Canada, the time limit for collecting a debt varies by province but generally ranges from 2 to 6 years. After this period, creditors may not be able to sue to collect the debt, though they can still try to collect it.

Does paying off collections improve credit score in Canada?

Paying off collections can improve your credit score in Canada. Settling debts shows responsible financial behaviour, positively impacting credit reports.

Are there debts that cannot go to collections?

Certain types of debts, like federal student loans, child support payments, and income tax debts, have special collection methods beyond typical agencies. These debts are handled by specific entities authorized by the government.

Can collections garnish wages in Canada?

Collections in Canada can garnish wages under certain conditions. If you fail to pay your debts, collection agencies may seek court orders to have a portion of your wages deducted to repay the outstanding amount.

How can I stop collection calls?

To stop collection calls, request communication in writing, dispute any inaccuracies in the debt, and seek legal advice if harassed. Consider negotiating a payment plan or exploring debt relief options. Document all interactions with collectors for reference.

What does "creditor-proof" mean?

“Creditor-proof” refers to assets protected from creditors during bankruptcy or debt settlement. This term ensures certain possessions are safeguarded, aiding individuals in financial distress.

What are the chances of a collection agency suing for debt?

Collection agencies may sue for any unpaid debts, but it’s much more likely in the case of larger sums or significant time delays.

Bruce Hodges
Bruce, Founder and CEO of Parachute, worked for several of Canada’s top Banks, published research for the Canadian Bankers Association, and taught E-commerce Strategy in Wilfrid Laurier University’s MBA program. His first start-up built credit solutions for the likes of National Bank, Fair Isaac, and Ford Credit globally. Prior to starting Parachute, Bruce was COO of Foresters Financial, and EVP Transformation at CIBC, one of Canada’s top 5 banks. Bruce founded Parachute to disrupt the financial wellness space taking on payday, and high interest predatory lenders, with the intent to bring at risk Canadians back from the brink to good financial health.
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