Although CFIB does not provide legal advice, from time to time business owners ask us about the small claims court system. The intent of this web post is to share insight and links about the process.
Where do I begin? Canada Business has helpful information on how to get paid by your customers
Success in receiving payment on overdue accounts is often achieved when you consistently follow your firm's credit and collection policy. If you do not have a plan in place, it's important to develop one that meets your cash flow needs. A plan should define timelines for when different approaches are used to obtain outstanding payments.
These approaches can include:
- phone calls to the customer
- collection letters
- Small Claims action
- Hiring a Collection Agency.
Is Small Claims Court for me?
If you have been unsuccessful in collecting payment, you may want to consider sending a Final Collection Notice first. This will let them know that unless you receive payment within a certain period of time you will be pursuing other options such as taking the case to small claims court or hiring a collections agency.
If the debt owed is less than $50,000 you can choose to take this to Small Claims Court. This link will take you to the AB Small Claims Court Website that provides further details on procedures (on the left) and costs. If the judgement is ruled in your favour and the customer/business does not pay you after receiving a copy of the Judgement, you may consider procedures of enforcing your judgement through seizure or garnishment. Due to the amount of time and money that can be involved with taking a case before small claims court, to contact a lawyer before proceeding.
Finding a lawyer!
The AB Law Society runs a lawyer referral service where the first half-hour of conversation with the lawyer is free and should be used to discuss your legal issues, explore your options, evaluate potential costs and help determine if the lawyer is a good fit for your legal issue. Please remember that lawyers will not provide free legal advice. To contact them call 1-800-661-1095.
Should I hire a Collection Agency? Where do I find one?
Alternatively, you could recover your money by hiring a collection agency. Agents' fees for service are often a percentage of the outstanding debt they collect. You should be able to find a list of collection agencies on the Yellow Pages website.