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.
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|