TORONTO, Jan. 26, 2012 /CNW/ - In the wake of a national consumer alert
about questionable claims by certain debt settlement agencies now
operating in Canada, the Ontario Association of Credit Counselling
Services (OACCS) is ringing alarm bells of its own, saying it's time
for a wake-up call about what separates the wheat from the chaff in
terms of recognized and accredited not-for-profit credit counselling
services that are actually meeting the needs of Ontarians with debt
"We applaud the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) for alerting
people to a number of so-called 'new' or "innovative" debt settlement
companies that are scurrying to Ontario with dubious claims of quick
fixes for people experiencing moderate to crippling debt problems.
These 'too-good-to-be-true-claims', as the FCAC puts it, are coming
from companies and organizations that - unlike OACCS member agencies -
are not recognized for exemptions under provincial legislation," said
OACCS Executive Director Henrietta Ross.
Noting OACCS members' four-decade-long record of not-for-profit service,
and the memberships' success over the years in meeting the needs of the
Ontario marketplace, Ross said that continuing uncertainties in today's
economy above all call for trustworthiness in the financial services
sector. "In Ontario, or any other region of Canada, there is no place
for suspect services in debt counselling, and no accredited,
responsible not-for-profit agency in our field would lead people to
believe that solving problem debt is a painless, quick-fix process,"
"Crippling and even moderately stressful personal debt problems require
sober thinking, intelligent analysis, and objective planning best
driven by accredited professionals who give more than lip service to
their not-for-profit service claims. Quick-fix agencies often charge
vulnerable people high up-front fees that only add to the burden of the
debt that must be addressed, and frequently these agencies fail to
follow through professionally on the administration of the services
they promise," Ross explained.
Ross also took aim at the Credit Counselling Society of British
Columbia, which in setting up operations in Ontario has implied that
Ontarians are somehow underserviced in terms of debt counselling
services. Ross described as "patently untrue" any suggestion that the
province is being underserviced in this regard. She said it is closer
to the truth to say that interlopers with questionable intentions are
coming into Ontario to dilute, rather than to augment, an already
strong service base, which is illustrated by achievements of OACCS
during the past year.
"OACCS and its member agencies knew from the start that 2011 would be
one of our most challenging years when Bank of Canada Governor Mark
Carney raised serious concerns about personal debt in this country. But
even in the face of an unprecedented personal debt ratio of 1.48 for
every dollar that Canadians make, we knew our more than 40 member
locations had the resources necessary to meet the challenges of the
marketplace. During 2011, we successfully helped almost 195,000
Ontarians in need, with more than $730 million in consumer debt under
management," Ross said.
She added OACCS and its member agencies remain committed not only to
providing superior debt counselling expertise, but to forwarding the
cause of financial literacy through national, private-public sector
educational programs such as Credit Education Week Canada, through
community-based programs, and through special initiatives such as the
federally sponsored Task Force on Financial Literacy, whose important
findings in 2011 were arrived at through a team of key national experts
that included member agency Credit Canada.
"Through the close ties we have developed with individuals and
communities over these many years, members of OACCS remain front and
centre in the challenge to help Ontario get beyond troubling issues of
personal debt. We are achieving our aim through free or low-cost credit
counselling services, and through time-tested educational programs
available to individiuals, communities, and businesses everywhere.
Working in partnership with federal and provincial governments,
educational bodies, the credit community, and other credible
organizations, we're getting the job done," Ross said.
The Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services (OACCS)
represents a Ontario-wide network of accredited, not-for-profit
agencies and affiliates offering preventative education and
confidential services to clients experiencing financial difficulties.
With a focus on financial counselling education, accreditation of
agencies, and certification of financial counsellors, OACCS is also
committed to research and policy initiatives concerning personal
finance and industry advocacy. To find an accredited member agency,
call 1-888-746-3328 or visit www.oaccs.ca.
SOURCE Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services (OACCS)
For further information:
Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director
Canadian Association of Credit Counselling Services
Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services
905-945-5644 ext 222