Myers Law has a track record of standing up against illegal and deceptive debt collection practices. We sue national debt collectors and law firms who violate the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA protects debtors that owe money, and even consumers who don’t owe money, from illegal, harassing, and dishonest collection attempts.
If you believe that a debt collector is harassing, abusing, or lying to you, contact us immediately to discuss it. Claims under the FDCPA have to be filed within one year from when the illegal conduct occurred–not when you learned about it, and you don’t want to run out of time.
Debt Collection Laws that Protect Consumers from Debt Collection Harassment, Abuse, and Misrepresentation
We have represented clients who are harassed, lied to, or abused by debt collectors. Debt Collector harassment happens when a debt collector makes repeated phone calls, calls at odd hours, uses vulgar or obscene language, makes illegal threats, fails to announce who the they are, or when they improperly share information with your employer or friends, among other things. The FDCPA allows consumers to sue debt collectors for their illegal tactics, to recover damages, and also to make the harassment and abuse stop.
In addition to prohibiting harassment, the FDCPA makes it illegal for debt collectors to use false, misleading, or deceptive practices when collecting a debt.
Common types of FDCPA violations may include situations where debt collectors:
- File lawsuits in the wrong court;
- Claim to be an attorney when they are not;
- Fail to disclose the fact they are debt collectors trying to collect a debt;
- Fail to disclose that you have at least thirty days to dispute the debt;
- Threaten to garnish wages or bank accounts without a judgment;
- Threaten to arrest, imprison, or jail a consumer for non-payment;
- Threaten to do anything that they cannot legally do;
- Attempt to collect illegal or non-existent interest;
- Threaten to recover attorney fees when the agreement creating the debt does not allow for those fees;
- Communicate with a debtor’s employer about the debt;
- Threaten to take some action that they do not intend to take;
- Misrepresent or mis-characterize a debt;
- Attempt to collect on a debt that is too old;
- Make repeated phone calls to annoy the debtor;
- Using vulgar or obscene language, or yell at and berate a debtor;
- Garnish a bank account or wages on a dormant debt;
- Send an initial collection letter without including legally required disclosures.
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from engaging in illegal, abusive, harassing, or deceitful conduct when they are collecting debts. It also requires debt collectors to disclose certain warnings and rights to consumers.
When a debt collector violates the FDCPA, they are also in violation of the State of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA), which is another consumer protection law. Sometimes, law firms collecting money for their business clients are considered debt collectors for purposes of the FDCPA, and may be liable to consumers for their abuses, harassment, and misrepresentations.
At Myers Law, we are not afraid to sue another law firm that is abusing or taking advantage of consumers, and we have done so to protect our clients.
The FDCPA Allows Consumers to Sue for Damages, Attorney’s Fees; Debt Collection Laws in Ohio Help, Too.
When a debt collector violates the FDCPA, consumers and debtors can sue for up to $1,000 in statutory damages, or their actual damages, plus recover attorney fees. Many times, violations of the FDCPA are also violations of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA), and can be punished under both laws.
The Ohio CSPA allows consumers to not only recover the damages available under the FDCPA, but also up to $5,000 for mental anguish, severe stress, harassment, or embarrasment, and other remedies including court-ordered injunctions to stop the abusive or harassing behavior from continuing.
The FDCPA only applies to consumer debts, meaning things purchase for family, household, or personal purposes; it does not apply to business debts. If you owe money on a business line of credit or business loan, the FDCPA will not protect you, but you should still speak with an attorney to discuss your options.
Communicating and Replying To a Debt Collector
A debt collector will try to get as much information from you as possible, including where you work, how much money you make, where you live, what your assets are, where you bank, etc. You are generally under no obligation to answer any of these questions (unless you are being asked about them at a debtor’s examination, in court discovery, or in other court-related procedure).
It’s generally a good idea to speak to an attorney first, before you communicate with a debt collector. But sometimes, you may feel the need to respond before you can speak with an attorney. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has multiple forms available to consumers to send back to debt collectors. Before you send a specific form, you should run it by an attorney.
If you do not believe that you owe the debt, or you simply want to be left alone, you can inform the debt collector that you dispute the debt, that you do not owe it, that you want them to get you more information or verification of the debt, that you want them to stop contacting you, that you have an attorney and only want the debt collector to talk to your attorney, or to tell the debt collector how they can and cannot talk to you. You can tell the collector all, some, or none of the above, but you really should talk to an attorney first.
Please note that for certain requests, you only have thirty days after you’re first contacted by the debt collector to request certain information.
Keeping Records of Harassment, Payment, and Communications are Critical to any FDCPA Lawsuit.
In a lot of cases, a debt collector has never sent documents to a consumer, and that in itself is proof of a violation of the law. However, most cases are more complex and require additional proof of illegal conduct, and not just the testimony of the consumer.
If you are being taken advantage of, abused, or harassed by a debt collector, it is important to keep all letters, bills, invoices, communications, voicemails, etc. that you get from them. You should not write on the original letters or documents. If you need to make notes, write them on a separate paper, or make a copy of the letter and write on the copy.
Consumers should also keep track of phone calls and communications: when the call happened, who called, and what was said or not said. These notes will help refresh memories later in a case, and they are good documentation for an attorney to review before determining the strength of your case.
Keeping good records will only help you prove your claims and talk with an attorney about the strength of your case. You also want to avoid destroying voicemails and other documents because you may be accused of destroying evidence later by less-than-honest debt collectors.
Myers Law Handles Other Debt-Related Cases Against Big Banks and Other Lenders.
We also hold banks, debt buyers, property management companies, and other lenders accountable in court when we believe that they have mistreated consumers. We have filed lawsuits against, and defended actions from, Wells Fargo, Huntington Bank, Credit Acceptance Corporation, Portfolio Recovery Associates, and others.
We have represented tenants against unlawful debt collection attempts by landlords and the landlords’ attorneys. We have also represented customers when retail locations sue them for payment on services never rendered, or misrepresented services. We have sued banks for maliciously prosecuting customers and abusing the court process. We also sue debt-buying companies that buy old, bad debt and try to illegally collect on it.
At Myers Law, we are honest with potential clients and let them know if, in our opinion, we think we might be able to make a difference or not. If we do not believe we can help, we know other attorneys that may be able to help. While we may be able to help someone who previously went through a bankruptcy but is being chased down by old debt, we do not handle bankruptcy proceedings or bankruptcy filings themselves. We do know qualified, experienced bankruptcy attorneys who can help advise clients and potential clients if bankruptcy is required or an option.
Impact of a Debt Collection FDCPA Case: Settlement with Geoffrey Goll and DDY, Inc.
While every case is different, and an outcome in one case is no guarantee of an outcome in another, it is important for consumers to know the type of impact they can have on a debt collector in some FDCPA cases.
In 2015, we reached a settlement with Salem-area attorney Geoff Goll, as well as debt collection company DDY, Inc. These debt collectors agreed to settle a federal lawsuit we filed against them on behalf of two Ohio consumers alleging that Goll and DDY engaged in illegal and coercive debt collection practices. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that Goll and DDY threatened debtors with prison if they failed to make payment arrangements on their hospital bills from the Salem Community Hospital. Other unfair, deceptive, and harassing acts were also alleged.
The settlement was filed by Federal District Court Judge Benita Pearson, and includes a list of activities that Goll and DDY are prohibited from engaging in, as well as certain steps they must take in future collection attempts. A copy of the settlement agreement / stipulation / court order is available here: Goll-DDY Stipulation Court Order.
Attorney Goll and DDY agreed that they would no longer use a demand letter that they had sent to the Mohns, which included a threat of collecting 18% interest. Goll and DDY also agreed that they would not threaten consumers with prison time in order to collect unpaid consumer debts, such as those owed to Salem Community Hospital. Goll and DDY also agreed that they would, for three years, promptly release any judgment lien they have filed when a judgment has been satisfied, and inform the court where the judgment was issued of that satisfaction.
Attorney Goll and DDY also agreed to pay the court costs, a “confidential amount of money” to compensate the Mohns, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. Attorney fees were later determined by the court to be $19,427.50.
In this case, Myers Law negotiated protections for all Ohio consumers. Often, these cases have an impact far beyond how a debt collector is allowed to treat one person.
Contact Dan Myers today to talk about abuse, harassment, or lies from a debt collector, bank, or lender. You can reach us at 216-236-8202, or via email at Info@MyersLawLLC.com. Or you can fill out a quick online form and get a call back from our office.