Kitchener paralegal Lee-Anne Gadd (OMGadd Legal Services) hopes more licensees follow her lead and write letters supporting an exemption for paralegals in the act that governs collections in Ontario.
Bill 55, the “Stronger Protection for Ontario Consumers Act, 2013,” is in second reading. It would amend the Collection Agencies Act R.S.O. 1990, Consumer Protection Act, 2002, and the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002, and make consequential amendments to other Acts.
The title of the Act is changed to the Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.
“The only logical way to speak on the matter was to write to the Minister of Consumer Services, the Honourable Tracy MacCharles, and voice my concerns,” Gadd says.
After she posted about her letter on LinkedIn, Gadd said several paralegals contacted her there, to get a copy of her letter, so they could send letters, too.
“I’m beyond ecstatic they are following suit,” Gadd says. “I stress that each paralegal has a voice, no matter what, and that advocacy does not stop in the courtroom. Simple action works wonders, even if at times you have to stand alone. We are in the position to make change for the better and we must never stay silent in the hopes someone else will make that difference.”
Paralegals are not authorized to make collections on behalf of their clients without being registered under the Collection Agencies Act. Paralegals who send demand letters or make telephone calls to debtors are at risk of being prosecuted for acting as a collection agency without a licence.
Ken Mitchell says paralegals must be given the same exemption in the Collection Agencies Act as is given to lawyers. “When paralegals defend a debtor in an action brought by a creditor, we are providing the services soon to be regulated under Schedule 1 of Bill 55.”
There are two situations in particular that currently require the paralegal to be licensed under the Collection Agencies Act, Mitchell notes: when it would be advantageous to include additional creditors in a global resolution initiated by only one creditor, and when a debtor wants to proactively settle an anticipated action.
Schedule 1 to the Bill amends the Collection Agencies Act, to regulate which debt settlement services that a collection agency, or a collector acting on behalf of a collection agency, can provide to a debtor, and restrict how much they can charge for those services.
Such services include undertaking to act for the debtor in arrangements or negotiations with the debtor’s creditors, or receiving money from a debtor for distribution to the debtor’s creditors.
Gadd’s letter asks that, since the Act is being amended, paralegals should be exempted, as lawyers are. “I referenced the Access to Justice Act as well to make my point. I strongly urge all other paralegals to do the same, if you haven’t already.”
Letters can be sent to the Honourable Tracy MacCharles, MPP Minister of Consumer Services, MPP for Pickering-Scarborough East.