Toronto

Owner of website that names and shames debtors told to shut down

The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services has ordered the owner of a website that publishes public information about people who've been successfully sued but won't pay up to "cease and desist."

'I will not be bullied by some officious twit,' says Dougall Grange

Dougall Grange said he's trying to improve the legal system with his website publicexecutions.ca which "names and shames" people who don't pay their civil litigation judgements. (Martin Trainor/CBC News)

The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services has ordered the owner of a website that publishes public information about people who've been successfully sued but won't pay up to "cease and desist".

"I will not be bullied by some officious twit at the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, whose mandate is the protection of consumers and they seem to be hell bent to do exactly the opposite." said Dougall Grange, the owner of the website ​publicexecutions.ca.

"What I'm doing is allowing judgement creditors, ie those are people who are owed money ... certified by the courts, to publish that information online in an accessible way, to motivate the person who owes them money to pay."

But the ministry sees it differently. It said in a letter to Grange, he's providing a consumer report without registering as a Consumer Reporting Agency, a violation of the Consumer Reporting Act.

Information provided is public

"This letter is to inform you that Public Executions, Inc. must cease and desist its activities in Ontario until such time as it's registered in accordance with the Act," wrote Doug Kariam, the registrar of Consumer Reporting Agencies.

All the information is provided by the people who have won small claims or civil judgements, said Grange. He charges $25 to $100 to post on his website. All of the information is public but not easily accessible. 

"I am not issuing consumer reports of credit reports. It's a bare bones fact: Joe Blow has a judgement against them, and owes somebody X amount of dollars plus interest and costs, and attached to that is the name of the court, the file number where you can go and confirm that information if you like," the retired paralegal said.

CBC Toronto first interviewed Grange in January about the difficulty of collecting on small claims judgements.

The ministry started an investigation after receiving a complaint from a man whose name appears on publicexecutions.ca for failing to pay two small claims court judgements, according to the letter the ministry sent to Grange.

Grange could face $100K fine

"In specific circumstances the provision of a civil judgement can be considered a consumer report," ministry spokesperson Sandra Bento said in a statement emailed to CBC Toronto.

"Where an organization, for consideration (i.e. compensation), provides information about a consumer's debts, including those that arise in connection with an outstanding court judgement, for the purpose of facilitating the collection of the debt, that organization is furnishing a consumer report," the statement reads.

If Grange is convicted of violating the Consumer Reporting Act, he could face a fine of up to $100,000.

Grange said the website doesn't break even and he was considering shutting it down until he got the ministry's letter.

About the Author

Michelle Cheung

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Michelle Cheung has been around the block a few times having worked as a journalist in Canada and internationally for more than 25 years. She has embraced telling digital, radio and TV stories that affect people in Toronto, the city where she grew up. Michelle's favourite way to explore the city is on her bike. You can reach her at michelle.cheung@cbc.ca