A Debt Collector Is Harassing Me

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Your creditors (people you owe money to) are allowed to take reasonable steps to collect the debt, including hiring a collection agent. However, a collection agent can’t threaten or harass you, nor a member of your household, a neighbour or friend, or your employer. Collectors are specifically prohibited from:

  • calling too often or at inappropriate times, or
  • using threatening, profane, intimidating or coercive language, or
  • publishing or threatening to publish your name and failure to pay.

The debt collector must make reasonable efforts to first contact you in writing about the debt. There are strict rules about calling you at work, and there are rules about when you can be called at home.

You can insist that the debt collector deal with you only in writing or through your lawyer, if you have one.

For information about unreasonable debt collection practices concerning student loans, call:
  • 1-888-815-4514 about federal student loans, or
  • 1-800-561-1818 about provincial student loans.

First steps[edit]

  1. It is important to put an immediate stop to the calls, and take control of negotiating a solution. If you are not able to do this by yourself, seek immediate legal help or contact Consumer Protection BC. In the meantime, record the dates, times and content of all communications they have with you and others about the debt. Insist on getting something in writing, and use caller identification or tracing if the collector refuses to properly identify themselves.
  2. Try to negotiate payments with the debt collector. He or she will want to know your financial circumstances (income, expenses, assets and liabilities). You should not agree to a payment that deprives you or your family of basic needs. You should not give out personal information other than financial information.
  3. If you are unable to negotiate a repayment plan with the debt collector, see the section of this Guide entitled, "I don't have enough money to pay my debts."
  4. If a debt collector is using unreasonable debt collection methods, including insisting on a payment when they know you are living in poverty, contact Consumer Protection BC by:
  • filing a complaint form, or
  • calling 1-888-564-9963 (ask to speak with the Complaints Manager about the collection agency you are dealing with).

What happens next[edit]

If you contact Consumer Protection BC, the Complaints Manager will contact the collector if he or she feels the practice is unreasonable and ask the collector to stop the practice. Consumer Protection BC can also require the collector to follow a compliance order to stop future unreasonable practices.

If you suffer loss or damages because of the unreasonable practices of a collector, you can sue them in Provincial (Small Claims) Court. See "I need to take someone to court" in this Guide.

Where to get help[edit]

See the Resource List included in this Guide for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:

Before meeting with a lawyer or advocate, complete the form Preparing for Your Interview included in this Guide. Make sure you bring copies of all documents relating to your case.

Debt collectors sometimes threaten to take your house, car or other property. They can only do so with a court order or if the property was used to "secure" the debt. If you are threatened in this way, get a copy of the loan agreement and the name of the collection agent, and contact Consumer Protection BC (see the Resource List for contact information).
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Drew Jackson, March 2017.

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