As San Diego County debt collection abuse lawyers, we were pleased to see that the state government of Maryland has struck back against a Southern California company accused of harassing its citizens. According to a Sept. 21 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Maryland is suing San Diego's Encore Capital, a collection agency, and affiliates including Midland Credit Management. The state alleges that Encore violated Maryland fair debt collection laws by suing victims after the statute of limitations on their debts had expired -- including some debts that dated back to the early 1980s. The state acted after receiving more than 60 complaints since 2001 about Encore, which buys bad debts from credit card companies and other creditors and attempts to collect on them.
A Sept. 17 story by Baltimore's WBAL elaborated further on the allegations. The television station started with the story of Edith Brown, a retired woman in suburban Baltimore who says Encore called her about a debt dating back to 1982 -- 27 years ago. State law forbids collection agencies from trying to collect debt more than three years old. It also forbids them from filing lawsuits knowing that they have no legal right to collect. Maryland state regulators say Encore and its affiliates have also failed to validate the debts they tried to collect and operated in the state without valid business licenses. If the state wins its suit, the collection agency faces a fine of up to $40,000. Two individual consumers in Maryland are also suing an Encore affiliate for $10 million under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
In the article, Brown advises other consumers to be wary of debt collectors' claims and insist on proof of the debt owed before they pay anything. As Riverside fair debt collection attorneys, we can confirm that this is not just a smart idea -- it is every American's right under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Under the law, consumers may send a written request to verify or dispute the debt within 30 days of receiving notice of the collection attempt. After receiving it, agencies may not continue calling until they send the requested information. The law also forbids many other harassing and deceptive practices by debt collectors, including threats of legal action the debt collector can't legally take; repeated or continuous calls; calling at work after a request not to; and using abusive or profane language. As in Maryland, many states have similar or even more pro-consumer laws, including California.
Howard Law LLP represents multiple Californians who were victims of unfair tactics and harassment by debt collectors. Despite the strict legal limitations on what debt collectors may do, many collection agencies routinely violate the law. They get away with it because most consumers don't realize that they have rights -- including the right to sue an agency that violates the law. In a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lawsuit, victims of harassing, deceptive or otherwise unfair debt collection may claim up to $1,000 for each violation, plus attorney fees, court costs and any financial cost of the harassment. Our Pico Rivera debt collection harassment lawyers help these victims, individually or as part of a class action, punish abusive companies and claim the money they need to defray the costs of the unfair and illegal conduct.
If you believe your rights were violated by a debt collection agency and you'd like to know more about your legal options, you should call Howard Law right away. We offer free, confidential consultations to all potential clients. To set one up, please contact us online or call us toll-free at 1-800-872-5925.