Articles Posted in Debt Collection

PRESS RELEASE

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff announces the filing of a lawsuit against Indiana attorney W. Christian Meyer. The lawsuit, which has been filed in the United States District Court for the Norther District of Indiana, alleges that Attorney Meyer filed a debt collection lawsuit on behalf of his client, Unity Surgical Center, LLC, against the wife of man who received medical treatment at the Unity Surgical Center. The Complaint alleges that this was a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) because the wife was not liable for her husband’s debt. The debt collection lawsuit remains pending at this time. The consumer/plaintiff in the FDCPA lawsuit is seeking an award of actual damages, statutory damages, costs and attorney fees.

The consumer’s lawsuit highlights two issues worth noting here. First, attorneys, if they do sufficient debt collection work, are covered by the FDCPA. If they sue the wrong person, as is alleged here, the attorney can be held liable under the FDCPA. Second, a husband or wife is generally NOT liable for the debts of their spouse. There is an ancient doctrine that is an exception to this called the Doctrine of Necessaries. The doctrine is a holdover from the time when women were unable to legally enter into a contract. The doctrine arose to allow women to obtain the necessities of life on their husband’s credit, making the husband liable. Last year, the Indiana Court of Appeals noted, in the case of Hickory Creek at Connersville v. Estate of Combs, 992 N.E.2d 209 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013) that the doctrine continues to survive, albeit now in a gender neutral form. However, the Court of Appeals clarified that a creditor must first obtain a judgment against the contractually-liable spouse and unsuccessfully attempt to collect on that judgment BEFORE making a claim (in other words suing, or otherwise attempting to collect) against the non-contractually-liable spouse.

PRESS RELEASE

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff announces the filing of a lawsuit against debt collector American Financial Credit Services, Inc. and the law firm of Bleecker, Brodey & Andrews. The lawsuit, which has been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that American Financial Credit Services, Inc. attempted to collect a debt without providing validation of the debt as required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The lawsuit also alleges that Bleecker, Brodey & Andrews made material misrepresentations in a state court debt collection lawsuit against the consumer. The debt collection lawsuit remains pending at this time. The consumer/plaintiff in the FDCPA lawsuit is seeking an award of actual damages, statutory damages, costs and attorney fees.

PRESS RELEASE

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff announces the filing of a lawsuit against debt collector Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC and the law firm of Morgan & Pottinger, P.S.C. The lawsuit, which has been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that the defendants misrepresented the origin of the debt they were attempting to collect and thereby violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA lawsuit arises out of another lawsuit where Portfolio Recovery Associates and Morgan & Pottinger filed suit against the consumer plaintiff in Indiana state court alleging that she owed a credit card debt. That lawsuit remains pending at this time. The plaintiff in the FDCPA lawsuit is seeking an award of actual damages, statutory damages, costs and attorney fees.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently affirmed the dismissal of a pro se plaintiff’s complaint in the case of Todd v. Collecto, Inc., 2013 WL 5452071. Michael Todd alleged that Collecto had violated the FDCPA by calling him and discussing his mother’s debt with him. Specifically, Mr. Todd first alleged that this violated Section 1692b of the FDCPA. Section 1692b generally prohibits a debt collector from communicating with anyone but the debtor about a debt, except to obtain contact information. (Note: This means a debt collector cannot legally call friends, relatives or co-workers and discuss the debt, and cannot call them at all if the debt collector knows how to contact the debtor.). The Court found that Mr. Todd’s complaint did not state a claim under this section because, under the terms of the section, only the debtor (his mother) could sue to enforce it.

Mr. Todd also alleged that Collecto’s conduct was unfair and unconscionable under Section 1692f. This section generally prohibits a debt collector from engaging in unfair and unconscionable conduct in the course of collecting a debt. The Court ruled that the allegations of the complaint did not state a claim under this section. Important to the Court’s ruling was that there was only one conversation, there was no request for payment and no express or implied threat of repercussions for Mr. Todd or his mother.

The takeaway from this case is that drafting the complaint is very important in an FDCPA lawsuit, just as it is in any case. Reading between the lines, it appears to me that, while no explicit request for payment was made, one of the reasons the Collecto representative engaged in this conversation with Mr. Todd was to get him to pay the debt on his mother’s behalf. An explicit request for payment need not be made for the call to be an attempt to collect a debt. Had Mr. Todd alleged that the phone call to him was an attempt to collect a debt from him, that would make him an alleged debtor under the FDCPA and would provide him with considerably more protections under the Act. If Mr. Todd could have truthfully make this allegation, I believe his claim would have survived the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

PRESS RELEASE

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff announces the filing of a lawsuit against Deca Financial Services, LLC, a debt collector based in Fishers, Indiana. The lawsuit, which has been filed in the United States District Court in the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that Deca Financial lied about when and whether a lawsuit had been filed, sued the wrong person, misrepresented the amount of the debt that was owed, attempted to collect certain amounts that were not owed and filed and maintained a lawsuit despite knowing that the debt had been paid, all in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The lawsuit seeks an award of actual damages, statutory damages, costs and attorney fees.

DSG Services Group Inc. is a debt collector operating out of Chicago, Illinois. The Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff is preparing to file a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) lawsuit against DSG Services Group Inc. for sending our client a letter which we believe violates the FDCPA. The FDCPA requires that, within five days of a debt collector’s initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of a debt, the debt collector send the consumer a written notice containing certain information, including the amount of the debt and the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed. The letter from DSG Services Group Inc. does not state the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed. Click here to view a redacted copy of the letter sent to our client.

If you have received a letter from DSG Services Group Inc. like this one, or a similar one from DSG Services Group Inc. that does not reveal the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed, please consider contacting us. We may be able to help you, regardless of where you live in the United States. Please note that only the initial written communication from DSG Services Group, Inc. need contain the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed. There is no requirement under the FDCPA that every follow-up letter from DSG Services Group Inc. attempting to collect a debt contain this information.

Feel free to call our office at 800-817-0461 or complete this short form if you believe we might be of service to you.

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff occasionally is contacted by a consumer who has just found a debt collection account on their credit report that is not theirs. We can help.

There are many ways these situations can be handled, but in my experience the best way to handle them, as long as you are sure the debt is not yours, is to file an FDCPA lawsuit against the debt collector. It is a violation of the FDCPA for a debt collector to attempt to collect a debt that is not owed. Putting a collection account on your credit report is collection activity, i.e., an attempt to collect a debt, and if the debt is not owed the debt collector has violated the FDCPA.

We represent the consumer in filing an FDCPA lawsuit against the collection agency. Typically (of course we cannot guarantee a particular result in any particular case, all cases are different), these cases are settled within a month or two when the collection agency agrees to delete the collection account, pay our client $1,000 statutory damages, refund our client’s $350 filing fee and pay our client’s attorney fees. In exchange, typically, the collection agency requires our client to sign a settlement agreement/release and dismiss the FDCPA lawsuit with prejudice (permanently). Because our client’s objective was just to get this erroneous account off their credit report, the client is pleased with the result.

The biggest debt collector in the U.S., measured by income, is NCO Financial Systems, Inc. In 2010, their parent company, NCO Group, Inc., reported total revenues of $1.6 billion. They don’t have a very good reputation either, having been ranked as one of America’s Worst Collection Agencies by budhibbs.com. Personally, I have not found them to be one of the worst I have seen, but the Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff has sued them multiple times for FDCPA violations. I took a look at the electronic docket for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and found that they have been sued several times a year over the last ten years.

If you have been contacted by NCO Financial Systems, Inc. and believe that they have violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (read about the most common violations here), you can contact our office by submitting this form.

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff has recently filed a lawsuit against Sallie Mae, Inc. in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Sallie Mae violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). Our client has alleged that he was a borrower/co-borrower and was obligated on student loan debt to Sallie Mae. Our client alleges in the Complaint that he did not provide Sallie Mae with his cellphone number at any time during the transaction that gave rise to debt or at any other time. Nevertheless, he alleges, Sallie Mae began calling his cellphone numerous times with an autodialer in an attempt to collect the debt, in violation of the TCPA (for more about what constitutes a TCPA violation, click here).

The TCPA provides for an award of damages of up to $500 per call and up to $1500 per call if the violation was knowing or willful. We believe we will be able to show that the calls in this case were knowing and willful because, among other reasons, our client expressly requested that Sallie Mae stop calling his cellphone yet the calls continued.

On February 2, 2010, a class action lawsuit was filed against Sallie Mae alleging that Sallie Mae violated the TCPA by placing collection calls to cellular telephones through the use of an automated dialing system and/or artificial or prerecorded voice without the prior express consent of the class members. That case is captioned Arthur, et al. v. Sallie Mae, Inc., Case No. C10-0198JLR, and was filed in federal court in Washington State. The class, i.e., the people that Sallie Mae allegedly did this to, numbers over 8,000,000. The case was settled on terms that appear to be pretty outrageous (bad for consumers). Despite the fact that a single call can be worth up to $1500, each class member who makes a claim is anticipated to receive $20.00 to $40.00 in cash or credit toward their indebtedness no matter how many calls they actually received. Meanwhile, the attorneys for the class have received an award of $4,830,000.00. Outcomes like this are what give attorneys a bad name.

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff has recently filed an FDCPA lawsuit against Advanced Debt Collection, Inc. Advanced Debt Collection, Inc. was collecting a debt that was allegedly originally incurred to CSL Community Association, Inc., a homeowner’s association. Advanced Debt Collection, Inc. sent our client a letter a collection letter. To see a copy of the letter click here.

The letter does not identify to whom the debt is allegedly presently owed. The letter states that Advanced Debt Collection, Inc. has been hired by CSL Community Association, Inc. to collect an unpaid balance. If true, this means the debt is owed to CSL Community Association, Inc. However, the letter also states that Advanced Debt Collection, Inc. is now the creditor. These statements cannot both be true.

The FDCPA requires that the initial collection letter to a consumer state “the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed.” The FDCPA also states that a debt collector cannot use a false or misleading representation in connection with the collection of any debt. We believe, and have alleged in the above-referenced lawsuit, that this letter therefore violates the FDCPA.