Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Toronto Public Library's collections agency - Unique Management Services Inc - Destroying user's Credit over minuscule Book Fines

#TPL, #Library, #Toronto, #UserFees, #MayorFord, #CollectionAgency, #CreditBureau #IKEAmonkey

UPDATE - Tuesday December 18, 2012: Received an email from Jones Branch Head Librarian Cathy yesterday - reassuring me that these types of collections do not result in reports to Credit Bureaus - and thus, this will not effect my credit rating.

I still have lots of concerns about this new collections policy at Toronto Public Library and will continue to work on the story and keep readers updated.

Michael         


With out any legal notice, and in less than 90 days, a book I'd forgotten I'd borrowed from the Toronto Public Library - went from tagged, 'Over-due'; to 'Lost' - and then quickly after that to collection via an outsourced, U.S. based, collection agency!

I received no notice by mail (still the legal standard) that the book was considered lost; and no warning that if it was not returned by a certain date a collections agency would be called in. Today in the mail (the only snail-mail I have ever received from TPL) a letter informing me that Unique Management Services, Inc. was on my case over fines totalling $31.40!

I note that the link warning of changes in the Fines Regime that TPL has had posted for over a year on their online Accounts management pages, does not mention this important change in policy. If I had seen a notice that collection agencies would be employed over small fines I certainly would have read the new language in the contract between TPL and it's users.

Today I'm REALLY sorry I didn't - for I am quite certain that a bad credit report has been added to my Credit Bureau rating.

Unbeknownst to me - along with a new, higher over-due fees schedule - any account owing greater than $30.00 for more than 50 days - gets passed over to an out-sourced Collection Agency!

In this new (1995) neo-con economic meme, a bad mark on my credit report means I'm one step closer to being a 'Second Class Citizen' - and that my credit card may not work at the grocery store next time; and that my bank may increase my interest rates on loans I have with them --- all because of a misplaced book!!!


This marks a sea-change from the old meme ... the meme where there was essentially no collection process for small over-due accounts; a meme where there was a 'Grace Day' (a day once a year when you can return all over-due items without any questions or fines - they just want the book back) --- to now, a dog-eat-dog meme where money is more important than everything on earth - including reading and community building.

I returned the book in question (Palestine - by Joe Sacco) on Monday, December 10, 2012 - and today - two days later - I received a letter from TPL (dated December 4, 2012 - looks like it was lost for a week inside Canada Post) saying my account has been sent to Unique Management Services, Inc. (Library Division) for collection!

Unique Management Services, Inc. (Library Division)
119 East Maple Street  Jeffersonville, IN 47130, United States

So now a collection agency from the United States possibly has all my information - my address, my full name and date of birth. This - above what happens to my credit rating - is what has me in a dither. Libraries are a cornerstone of the enlightenment - Librarians and management are honour bound to keep information about what users read completely secrete. It's part of of our freedom of speech protections now in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) - and in the US First Amendment (ratified by Congress December 15, 1791).

Plus the fact that all this has happened in less than 90 days (as per normal practice, accounts are legally due on the day a good is shipped [in this case on the day the book was due back] - but vendors generally wait 90 days to receive payment).


Image: Toronto Public Library, 'Your Account' page notes $5.00 Unique Management Services Inc service fee

Image: Toronto Public Library, 'Your Account' page notes $5.00 Unique Management Services Inc service fee


Just now I went to my local Branch (Jones) and talked to 'Cathy'. I didn't ask, but I assumed Cathy was the senior Librarian on duty when I visited.

I asked her how much information about me TPL had given Unique Management Services, Inc.. Do they have access to what books I have read? Do they have my name, address and birth date? Will this effect my credit rating? If I fix the problem immediately does the collections black mark come off my name at the Credit Bureau?

Cathy said she would look into all these things and get back to me via email (I don't do phone). I look forward to the follow-up.

In researching I found a nice blog on collection agencies, and an article on this Library Collection Agency in particular -

Fighting Collection Agency Debt | "Unique National Collections" | August 12, 2010 | http://collectionagencydebt.blogspot.ca/2010/08/unique-national-collections.html

According to CorporationWiki.com - Unique Management Services, Inc. is also known as:
Unique National Collections, Unique Rural Recoveries, Unique Organization Recoveries, Unique National Collections, Unique Municipal Recoveries, Unique Management Services, Inc., Unique Management Services, Inc., Unique Library Services, Unique International Recoveries, Unique Ag Recoveries; 
CorporationWiki.com - "Unique Management Services, Inc." - http://www.corporationwiki.com/Indiana/Jeffersonville/unique-management-services-inc-5820528.aspx


The article linked above, from 2012, is about Unique National Collections - which is in the same business as today's Unique Management Services, Inc. - and as the two are connected in the Wiki (who's sources are government business licensing bodies), and the names are almost identical, and they are in the same niche business (Library Collections); and (as the article points out) the word "Collections" in the name of the earlier incarnation left that company open to law suits (because they don't follow the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act - FDCPA) - I therefore assume these two differently named entities are one and the same company.


Thanks Mayor Ford. Your knee-jerk 'cut the waist' bull has landed on this voter's lap (and this 'belt-tightening' at the TPL was plan 'B', after the vast majority rejected cutting the Library budget to a level that would have closed branches).

Think what a sh*t storm would have happened to the electorate if all his cuts had gone through. 

"Services will not be cut, guaranteed" - he says during the 2010 election - yeah, right.

Thanks a lot 'Monkey Boy'.

Photo-shop Image via Jakob on Facebook





mh

11 comments:

  1. Interested in a lawsuit?
    A public library has to provide free and equitable service.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow buddy nice rant. Too bad all you had to do was return something you borrowed in good faith, on time. But of course it's not your fault, NONE of this is your fault right? Everybody should have a grace day and not pay fines ever. That would help the libraries out a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How does it feel being a total moron? Your comment isn't even fucking relevant, you dolt. That someone like you has a city job is pathetic. This is about an American collections agency being handed personal information without notice. Can you see that, or is your self-serving bias impeding your reading comprehension? I have family in the system and I hear regularly about some of the pathetic excuses for workers that exploit it. Based on your attitude, I'm ready to assume you are of this variety. You sound like a total mouth-breathing idiot.

      Delete
    2. I don't allow abusive commenting here 'anonymous'. 'moron idiot pathetic' are not necessary to the points you are making. You would never talk to anyone face-to-face like that, please don't do it here.

      I believe hiding may cause individuals to make comments that reflect a less civilized manner than that which they would ordinarily present in public spaces. I may have to insist people use a real identity in the future.

      Michael Holloway

      Delete
  3. Yeah, I get your drift: It's my ENTITLEMENT (to be a fallible human being). eh?

    My point was --- the account went to collections without legal notice.

    So this was likely a slip-up - as TPL tries to morph into some sort of neo-liberal institution. But of note through my experience is that this is a place where fooling the people that government finance is the same as household finance - leads to the predictable end --- the user gets played by a powerful corporation.

    So for a poor family - after just one overdue book (lost under a bed or something) - will result in Mom laying down new law:

    'No more borrowing from that slick joint - EVER!!'

    mh

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You say "I received no notice by mail (still the legal standard) that the book was considered lost" but looking at the TPL websitte under Your Account/Notification Settings, the only options are By Email and By Telephone, so why would you expect to receive a notice by mail? Secondly, the TPL states in their policies "If something is overdue by more than 40 days, the library considers it lost." So it does seem that the TPL lived up to it's legal obligations, and you're just pulling 90 days out of your hat. Basically, you messed up and not willing to accept the responsibility. Suck it up and get on with life.

      Delete
  4. So in 40 days my information gets sent to a US collections agency - when the standard in business as far as I understand is 90 days past due? (and that's when the internal collections department starts contacting you - not an outside collections company).

    And I don't care that they say they don't tell the credit bureau; information is gold, and this is a for-profit neo-economy corporation. Monetizing the public library system - they should be ashamed of themselves ... but they probably have no idea what that means. They've probably sold my data for 50 cents to slave trader by now.

    I've paid my over-due fees and bought the book for the TPL with my fines.

    I'm over it - but I don't feel bad about posting this. I hope this is educational to anyone who uses our great Library system and might have otherwise been caught like myself, in this shift away from decency and good governance that the Rob Ford Mayoralty represents.

    :)

    You on the other hand, seem to be obsessing about this little rant of mine...

    But, I enjoy the raconteur.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Just FYI for anyone that has recently got a threat letter from these people, the Toronto Public library here in Ontario is now employing them, they don't even have a phone number on there letter, ruin my credit rating on 16$ of late fee's(the actual things where returned), I am going to the council budget meeting next month to speak about de-funding the whole library system, if it's going to be another extortionist we don't need it, and I am one that paid happily the one time I actually lost a book, and they charged me for the hard cover instead of the paper back it actually was.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good for you Anonymous, get involved.

    Throwing the baby out with the bath water isn't MY objective though. De-funding is going in the wrong direction in my opinion.

    Rather - finding a way that the public library system can play a role in the emerging new communications standard is my goal here.

    Some ideas so far: end copyright compliance for public libraries right now (copyright is dead - a new model will emerging soon to pay artists and owners for what they do); more funding for digitalization of content; more staff; more staff education and upgrading; bigger collections budget; and make local libraries into internet wifi hubs - especially in under-served and in low-income neighbourhoods... .

    Michael Holloway

    ReplyDelete
  7. Espionage apparently perpetrated against Canada internally company is listed as no longer operating.

    Apparently hostile acts by Libraries as apparent acts of revenge because Library customers (Canadian Military Veterans and non feminist females refuse to volunteer training services or interact with libraries covertly supporting:
    1. Ad Hoc inner city agencies violating Privacy Confidentiality Legislation (their version of illegal training model Stanley Milner Library).
    2. Dec 30, 2015 - January 2016 the writer assisted a disabled Native woman in returning by escorting her to sister in Sherwood Park Ed.AB re: obtain a safe roof over her sister's head instead of the Hope Mission) The Staff at the Stanley Milner Libary did not "volunteer" or divulge that their internal reference was for Ad Hoc People from Boyle Street Co-op. The writer is not - has never been a client of Boyle Street Co-Op or a volunteer. These statements are made without prejudice are true based upon the best current accurate written data available and are not allegations.END

    ReplyDelete