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Many States Responding to Aggressive Debt Collectors With Consumer Protection Laws

October 15, 2009

As the economy has worsened and more consumers have had trouble paying off debt, our Fullerton fair debt collection attorneys have received increasingly large numbers of calls from clients who say they were targets of abusive and harassing debt collection efforts. According to an Oct. 14 article from the Associated Press, state governments are also receiving these calls -- and making laws in response. The governments of Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, New York and North Carolina have all recently passed laws restricting how debt collectors may interact with debtors, and several other states have similar legislation pending. In many cases, the AP said, the laws focus on companies that buy bad debt and then use

North Carolina's law was intended to help people like Eleanor Chittum, 63, of Winston-Salem. According to records, she owed $1,439 on a credit card, but paid the debt off by transferring it to another card. She was therefore surprised to hear from a collection agency that demanded she pay $1,800 to settle the same debt. Nonetheless, the debt collector filed a lawsuit against her; it claims in court filings that it does not have to prove she owes the debt. In response to cases like these, North Carolina passed a law requiring collection agencies to produce documents proving the debt in any lawsuit they file. Other laws focus on preventing foul language, threats of deportation or arrest, or cases of mistaken identity. A New York City ordinance passed this year requires debt collectors to state the amount of the debt, the name of the original creditor and the name of the company they represent.

As Rialto debt collector harassment attorneys, we have known for years that collection agencies routinely use illegal and underhanded tactics. Now that the economy is worse and the number of victims has increased, complaints are up. Every American consumer is protected by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which forbids debt collectors from using abusive language, threats, harassment and other unethical tactics -- but as Chittum discovered, the Act has loopholes. Some states have already stepped up to close those loopholes, and we are delighted to see many others following suit as state attorneys general are flooded with complaints. We agree that people should pay what they owe, but nobody should be frightened or harassed into paying debts they do not owe by illegal and unethical behavior.

Howard Law LLP has an active practice defending the rights of consumers against overreaching and outright illegal tactics by debt collection companies. Our Oceanside collection agency abuse lawyers represent clients suing over abusive behavior under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and California's Rosenthal Act. Both of these laws strictly limit the tactics collection agencies may use; give consumers ways to dispute debts; and allow consumers whose rights are violated to sue. In an unfair debt collection lawsuit, consumers may claim $1,000 for each violation of the law and any actual damages the lawbreaking caused, as well as attorney fees and other financial costs of the lawsuit. By enforcing your rights, you can send a strong message to the collection industry that you won't put up with illegal harassment and abuse.

If you believe a debt collector overstepped its bounds with your or someone in your family, Howard Law can help. To learn more about your rights and your legal options, please contact us online or call 1-800-872-5925 for a free, confidential consultation.