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Bad Debt

Ben Gibson of Owen Sound, ON, was deep in debt. His bank account was empty, he had creditors calling for their money, and he felt there was no way out – until he heard about Cambridge Life Solutions.

“They’re very, very nice and just sort of made me feel comfortable, like I wasn’t going to deal with a soulless corporation,” he says.

Ben thought his debt problems would be solved. He says Cambridge Life Solutions told him they could save him at least forty percent of what he owed at the time.

“They had all the right sayings, all the right words, they knew how to put you at ease,” he says.

But Ben never got the settlement he was hoping for. Instead, he says he paid nearly $1200 in fees, and he was sued by his creditor. When that happened, he says he cancelled his program with Cambridge Life. The result: even more debt than he started with.

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“When something sounds too good, we shouldn’t bite, we should look at things very, very skeptically,” says Scott Hannah, a credit counsellor in BC who has been calling for stricter government regulation of the debt settlement industry, including the outlawing of upfront fees.

Cambridge Life turned down 16×9’s request for an interview. But they did tell us they’ve helped “thousands of Canadians” and settled more than $10 million in debt this year alone. Although the company wouldn’t tell us what percentage of the clients they sign up complete the program, they said that more than 92 per cent of clients who do finish the program end up with a satisfactory settlement.

Ben, however, was forced to declare bankruptcy. He says his debt was never dealt with.

“It’s a joke. I wish they didn’t exist,” he says of Cambridge Life. “You’re not going to get anywhere, you’re just going to hurt yourself by not paying your bills and not dealing with your creditor.”

In the end, after contacted by 16×9, Cambridge Life refunded Ben all his fees.

Since airing “Bad Debt”, the Ontario Government has proposed new measures to regulate debt settlement companies.