The Los Angeles Times article (see below) wasn't the only time Howard Law PC has been quoted in the press on financial and consumer protection issues. In fact, it was the second time within a week! Just last Friday, Oct. 22, CNET.com ran an article about the use of debt collectors to fight online piracy of music, movies and other intellectual property: Debt collectors may join antipiracy fight. This is a new tactic for the record and movie industries, which had previously come under fire for suing individual users who were caught sharing files. When those users refused to settle out of court, the industries typically sued them for more money, resulting in large judgments against people who simply could not afford to pay.
Now, the article says, the industries are skipping the lawsuits and cutting straight to debt collection, something that may be illegal. As our partner, Vincent Howard, explained to CNET, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and state laws strictly limit how debt collectors can do business. Attempting to collect on a debt before a lawsuit and legal judgment would be illegal -- because it would be attempting to collect on a debt that does not exist. Here's what he said:
The law is very specific about when and how lenders can collect a debt, said Vincent Howard, managing partner of the Anaheim, Calif., law firm Howard Law. His firm represents clients in cases of predatory lending and violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act, the law designed to eliminate abusive practices in the collection of consumer debts. He questioned the language of the CEG contract.Unfortunately, debt collectors aren't pleasant to work with even when the debt is legitimate. Because they know it scares some people into paying, collection agencies are well known for using harassment, vulgar language, threats, calls to inappropriate people or at inappropriate times and more to get money. Even when the victims can show that the debt truly is not owed, many don't believe this and continue the harassment over the long term.
"It seems to me that sending in debt collectors there is premature because it assumes you have the judgment against the alleged defendant," Howard said. "But you have to prove your case in court first. These people may not have committed any violation. What would happen if this person pays and then after trial isn't found liable?"
Our firm helps victims of illegal debt collection fight back. Under the FDCPA and the California version, the Rosenthal FDCPA, we can sue debt collectors for up to $1,000 plus attorney fees and all actual damages. If this has happened to you and you'd like to know more, Howard Law would like to help. For a free, confidential consultation, call us toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 or send us a message through our website.