CHRONIC / The train of new measures announced recently by the minister responsible for consumer protection and housing, Lise Thériault, to ensure a better protection of consumers in québec continues her journey.
One of the components of this menu to the legislative and regulatory aims for the improvement of compliance with the rules of the game in terms of the recovery of debts, by the establishment of a certification of representatives moving within enterprises which operate in this sector of activity.
Prior to their adoption and eventual implementation, the proposed changes in this sense are, for a period of 45 days following their publication, the subject of a public consultation.
In the wake of the act 24
This new step comes in the wake of the unanimous adoption, on 15 November last, of the law 24 designed primarily to modernise the Law on consumer protection (CPL), in particular as regards the rules relating to consumer credit and the contracts of service of settlement of debts.
The sector of activity of the debt collection raises a significant number of complaints from consumers. Although it is not a threat to dethrone the automotive industry, which reign without sharing, at the top of the list of sectors subject to the largest number of complaints to the Office de la protection du consommateur (OPC), the activity of which is to communicate with consumers in order to recover unpaid accounts raises a significant amount of complaints.
For the period 1 April 2017 to 31 march 2018, the debt collection comes in at 10th among 75 fields of consumption codified in the Office, while more than 3000 consumers contacted OPC to inquire about their rights or to make a complaint.
Despite the large volume of interventions of the MUTUAL fund with the sector’s stakeholders in the collection of debts, many consumers continue to be subjected to pressure and harassment from representatives of the collection agents. This is why a tightening of the supervision of this sector of activity has been considered necessary. The framework proposed is therefore intended to prevent such situations by improving their knowledge of the law. These changes would also enable the authorities responsible for the oversight of this sector keeping track of these representatives, even if they change employers.
Among the measures adopted in the law 24, it is provided in particular that the representative of a collection agent will be required to obtain a certificate of competence issued by the Board. The proposed amendments to the regulation are intended to determine the conditions under which a representative should meet to obtain this certificate, and to carry out its activities.
It is proposed that a certificate can be issued only if the applicant passes an examination on the knowledge of the laws and rules applicable to the collection of receivables. About 1100 representatives are currently working within about 80 of the collection agencies holding a permit issued by the MUTUAL fund.
Also remember that the collection agents and their representatives are required to follow rules of conduct rigorous, especially concerning communications with the debtor and his family and friends. Conduct amounting to harassment or intimidation as well as threats, are particularly prohibited by the Law on the recovery of certain receivables.
It will be interesting, once they are adopted and implemented, see the effects of these new rules on the annual list of the industry sectors that are most problematic.
Gary Frost is the director of services to the clientele, to the Office of the protection of the consumer.