Thursday, July 20, 2006

Credit Card Collection Blues

The voice on the line is that of a young woman, and a bit shaky. She’s clearly relieved to talk to someone, and her story tumbles out in a jumble. She’s being harassed by a collections agency. After she says her piece, I go through the facts with her methodically, and the full picture unfolds.

Her name is Joni, and until about three months ago, she was living with a guy in a “common law” relationship. He had bought furniture for the apartment using his credit card. This account was in his name solely; she was not an additional card holder. Money was tight and when they split up, he took about half of the furniture. Apparently, he let his credit card account go delinquent, and for the last several weeks, she’s been getting several phone calls a day from a “very mean and ignorant” collections agent.

She is particularly concerned because this agent says that he could have her furniture repossessed and garnish her paycheque. He says it’s as easy as filing out a form.

I tell Joni she’s not alone, and I have good news for her.

Firstly, as she was not on the credit card account, she has no responsibility for any charges on the account, even if she has some of the items purchased on it.

Secondly, the only way the credit card company could touch her personal property or wages would be to be to serve her with a lawsuit, proceed successfully to judgment, and get a court order authorizing the seizure. As she has no responsibility for the debt, there is no reasonable likelihood of this happening.

That’s a relief, but what about this jerk of a collections agent calling her all the time? I explain that she can simply deliver a letter by fax or registered mail to the agency confirming that she disputes the “debt” and that she would like them to go to court if they think they have a case (which they don’t). Under BC’s consumer protection laws, the agency is then prohibited from communicating with her anymore.

We arrange to fax her a copy of our standard letter for these situations. She thanks me and we say goodbye.