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Newspaper Investigation Finds Sharp Rise in Complaints About Unfair Debt Collection

December 22, 2009

As San Bernardino unfair debt collection lawyers, we have already observed an increase in the number of consumers who come to us with complaints about abusive collection tactics. A Dec. 13 article from the Evansville (Indiana) Courier & Press reports that an investigation showed a similar rise in complaints nationwide. Scripps Howard, the newspaper's owner, conducted an investigation of legal complaints about unfair debt collection, using interviews and Freedom of Information Act document requests. The results showed that as of May, the last month for which it had records, complaints to federal authorities were on track to be up by 6% over 2008. A related poll found that Americans said they were contacted more often as well.

The most common complaints investigators found against debt collectors were complaints about conduct prohibited by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This included allegations that callers misrepresented the debt; fail to send a required written notice; and called repeatedly. Thirty percent of those responding in the Scripps Howard poll said they had been called before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., which is outside the legally allowed period. Consumer advocates told the newspaper that calls and harassment are going up in part because of the bad economy and the resulting increase in defaults on bills. However, they also said enforcement of the FDCPA is weak, which means collection agencies aren't likely to face consequences when they break the law.

We're sorry to say that this has also been the experience of our San Juan Capistrano abusive debt collection attorneys. The FDCPA is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, which is responsible for a wide variety of trade regulations. Despite the fact that the majority of its complaints are about debt collection companies, the FTC takes action on only a fraction of those complaints. State agencies sometimes also file enforcement lawsuits, but these are also a small amount of cases compared to the complaints they receive. Consumers may act on their own, usually with help from an attorney, under state and federal laws, but far too many people don't do this because they don't even realize they have rights. As a result, complaints simply fall off the radar and blatantly abusive collection agencies go unpunished.

Howard Law LLP helps clients strike back against debt collectors that break the law. Under federal and California law, debt collectors may not misrepresent the debt they are trying to collect; call continuously or repeatedly; deny a written request for validation of the debt; threaten arrest or any other legal action they can't carry out; report false information on a credit report; and more. If they do break the law, the FDCPA allows consumers to sue for up to $1,000 in damages, plus the entire cost of bringing the claim, including attorney fees. They can also claim any actual damages caused by the illegal behavior, such as the loss of a job due to repeated illegal calls at work from a debt collector. Our Cypress fair debt collection enforcement lawyers work with both individuals and large groups who were all victimized by the same illegal behavior.

If you've had enough from debt collectors who think they're exempt from the law and common courtesy, Howard Law can help. To learn more about your rights and your options, contact us online or call 1-800-872-5925 today for a free, confidential consultation.