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 problems.
"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," she said.
"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.
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