Know the rules for credit counsellors and debt settlement companies

Non-profit services and debt settlement companies must follow certain rules. These rules are found in Ontario’s Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act. The rules help protect consumers from bad business practices.

These rules say that non-profit counselling services and debt settlement companies:

  • can’t charge up-front fees for repayment plans, except for a $50 set-up charge
  • can charge you a maximum of 15% of any payments you make to your debt settlement plan (for example, if you make payments of $100 each, they can’t charge more than $15 for each payment)
  • can’t begin collecting fees until they have an agreement with your creditors, and have made payments to them
  • must give you 10 days to cancel the contract for any reason, including if you change your mind. This is called a cooling-off period.

It is important to understand your contract and to talk to your creditors. Although the rules give you some protection, some companies might still try to take advantage of you.

Non-profit credit counselling services

Non-profit credit counselling services might also have other rules they have to follow if they are members of the Ontario Association of Credit Counselling, or Credit Counselling Canada.

Most non-profit credit counselling agencies are members of these groups. But the law does not say they must be members.

Members must attend training sessions and follow certain codes of conduct. These codes might say that:

  • all financial counsellors must go through specialized training
  • counsellors will help anyone, even if they cannot pay for services
  • almost all their services are free, except for debt management programs
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