Tag: consumer protection law

Proposed Legislation: The Restoring Statutory Rights Act

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced new law to correct the unfair impact of forced arbitration clauses on consumers. There are several reasons consumers are gravely disadvantaged when large companies and service providers easily win in arbitration. Forced arbitration agreements are derived in concept from the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), enacted in 1925. The FAA was not originally intended to be used to compel consumers to settle disputes in arbitration when they would otherwise have access to the courts. The new law, the Restoring Statutory Rights Act, would protect consumers and change the course of the law. This legislation is timely and many consumer rights advocates are upset by the recent U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decisions upholding forced arbitration agreements imposed on consumers.

Consumers are significantly disadvantaged by forced arbitration clauses.

Forced arbitration clauses are found in the fine print of contracts, in click through agreements online, and in the literature sometimes included in a consumer’s monthly billing statement. In many cases, the consumer is never asked whether they voluntarily consent to having any disputes settled in binding arbitration. Simply by continuing to use a service or make payments on a home or car, the consumer may be consenting to the arbitration clause. Most consumers are unaware that they are limited in arbitration and they will never see a courtroom or judge, even if they have a significant complaint against the lender or service provider seeking to collect a disputed amount of money. In one case we wrote about in Arbitration clauses prevent consumers from suing in court, but might not end the fight, a consumer was sued and lost in arbitration over a debt he did not owe.

Adding another layer of disadvantage on the consumer, the companies writing forced arbitration clauses into their consumer agreements are also the ones to select the panel of arbitrators. There are limits on the rules of law and procedure in arbitration. There is no jury in arbitration, no elected or appointed judge, simply a panel of arbitrators who are not necessarily lawyers or people with legal experience.

The Federal Arbitration Act was never intended to force individual consumers into arbitration.

The FAA statute was written to help companies with equal bargaining power an opportunity to use voluntary arbitration for dispute resolution.[i] The law was not written to compel individual consumers to arbitration, especially when they are forced into arbitration by a clause in the fine print they never read. Recent SCOTUS decisions interpreted the FAA statute as applying to individual consumers who are forced to settle disputes in arbitration and have no right to go to court with their own claims against consumer protection violations or other wrongdoing by the company suing them.

The Restoring Statutory Rights Act could protect consumers from binding arbitration.

Congress is asked to pass the Restoring Statutory Rights Act[ii] to redirect a legal path going in the wrong direction, in the opinion of its authors and supporters.[iii] Lobbying for the necessary changes in the law to protect consumers from abusive and unfair collection practices and lawsuits, there will likely be strong support for this proposed legislation among individual consumers and small business owners. The new law would directly correct some of the current problems and inequities in arbitration.

  1. The Restoring Statutory Rights Act would make claims by individuals and small businesses, arising out of violations of state or federal law or constitution, exempt from the FAA statute, allowing these claims to proceed in a traditional court of law.
  2. State and federal courts can apply the laws in their jurisdictions to contract interpretations, arbitration clauses and challenges to the enforceability of forced arbitration clauses, if the Restoring Statutory Rights Act becomes law.
  3. The enforceability of an arbitration clause would be a decision for the court, not the arbitrators, under the Restoring Statutory Rights Act.

U.S. CongressContacting your U.S. Senator to ask them to support the Restoring Statutory Rights Act is a step you can take to help fight back against forced arbitration.

The Zamparo Law Group follows legislation and legal decisions affecting consumer rights. As there are new developments that could affect consumers, we will share the news on our social media pages.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the companies who refuse to follow the law.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

[i] The National Law Review, Federal Arbitration Act Trumps State Law Again, Jan. 14, 2016.

[ii] U.S. Senate, Restoring Statutory Rights and Interests of the States Act of 2016.

[iii] The Hill, New bill aims to restore rights lost in forced arbitration clauses, by Lisa Gilbert, contributor, and Sonia Gill. Feb. 11, 2016.

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Telephone Consumer Protection Act in news and courts

Victoria’s Secret and the United States Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”) made recent news in connection with the violation and litigation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). The TCPA is one of the lesser-known federal consumer rights laws. Many consumers know they have rights when it comes to phone calls and text messages, beyond a do-not-call list. In fact, consumer’s rights are easy to learn and violations are easy to spot when you know what to look for. The TCPA restricts telemarketing calls and the use of automatic dialing systems, prerecorded voice messages, text messages and faxes. The restrictions protect consumers from unsolicited advertisements and individuals with whom we do not otherwise have an established business relationship. Violations of the TCPA are often litigated in class action lawsuits and a recent SCOTUS opinion better protects plaintiff consumers.

Victoria’s Secret customers may be more cautious when agreeing to receive the company’s ad texts.

The TCPA restricts how a company such as a clothing retailer may contact and communicate by text messaging. Consider the variety of occasions in which your favorite store could obtain, verify and retain your phone number. The click-wrap text at a point-of-sale purchase could include language in which you agree to receive a single or limited number of text messages to receive offers and information. What happens when you opt-in and consent to receive special deal texts, and you get more than you expected?

Victoria’s Secret is the named defendant in a proposed class action lawsuit for over texting. The plaintiff, a man from California alleges Victoria’s Secret violated the TCPA when it sent him just short of 100 text messages in one day. The opt-in message agreement the plaintiff entered into with the retailer was to receive no more than six text messages a month. The automated telephone dialing system used by Victoria’s Secret sent the plaintiff 97 text messages on one day in November 2015.[i]

The restrictions of the TCPA apply to a text messaging ad campaign.

The law generally prohibits phone calls to people, made by automatic telephone dialing systems or an artificial or prerecorded voice. There is an exception to the TCPA, if the call is placed for an emergency purpose or the caller has the prior express consent to initiate what some call “robo-calls.” The prior express consent element of the exception may be derived from the underlying existing relationship with the caller, such as between bank and credit card holder or cell phone provider and customer. In various communications sent to us by our service providers and banks, we might find fine print, which says we consent to receiving text messages when we agree to an offer or simply continue using the service.[ii]

Going beyond the limits of the consumer’s consent may violate the protective restrictions of the TCPA. The California plaintiff has a right to a private action against Victoria’s Secret and may be able to recover for any actual monetary loss in connection with the TCPA violation, as well as a statutory amount of $500 for each violation. If the plaintiff can prove that Victoria’s Secret willfully or knowingly violated their opt-in agreement and the TCPA, the court may award triple the damage award.[iii]

Class action litigation in TCPA cases and the recent SCOTUS landscape opinion.

SCOTUS
Supreme Court of the U.S.

The U.S. Navy contracted with a marketing company to send text messages to 18 to 24-year-olds who opted-in to receiving text messages. The company allegedly exceeded the scope of its op-in list of recipients and messages were sent to unintended recipients, well beyond the recipient age range limits.

In the Navy case, a full settlement offer was made to a named plaintiff, and the SCOTUS ruled that the defendants cannot rely on a settlement offer to one plaintiff, to argue that the claims of that plaintiff are then moot, because of the settlement offer, and seek dismissal of those claims. The SCOTUS relied on contract law principals to conclude that unaccepted settlement offers and unaccepted offers of judgment do not deprive a plaintiff of their interest in a lawsuit.[iv]

Companies defending against TCPA class action suits could previously expect to attempt to defeat a subject class action by offering a full settlement to the class representative. Under the new SCOTUS ruling, an unaccepted settlement offer will not prevent a consumer plaintiff from continuing to prosecute their claims against the TCPA violator, in individual and class action litigation.

Telemarketers using auto-dialers to call and text you their advertisements expect you to do nothing when they violate the TCPA. Prove them wrong. The Zamparo Law Group can help.

Zamparo Law GroupThe Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs harmed by telemarketers violating the TCPA and other similar federal and state laws. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the companies who refuse to follow the law and instead, use illegal tactics to market their products and services.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

[i] Data Privacy and Security Insider, Victoria’s Secret hit with TCPA class action for text messages, by Kathryn Rattigan, Feb. 2, 2016.

[ii] Telephone Consumer Protection Act 47 U.S.C. § 227 (b)(1), Restrictions on use of Automated Telephone Equipment

[iii] Telephone Consumer Protection Act 47 U.S.C. § 227 (c)(5), Private Right of Action

[iv] U.S. Supreme Court Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, No. 15-857 Decided January 20, 2016.

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Federal law requires debt collectors to provide validation notices to consumers

When debt collectors call and attempt to collect a debt they claim you owe them, you have a right to ask for proof of the debt they claim you owe. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act[i] (FDCPA), the debt collector has an obligation to provide written verification of the debt. In fact, within five days of contacting you, every collector must send you a written “validation notice” including the name of the collector, the amount they claim you owe, and your options to dispute the debt if you believe it is not believe you owe the money.[ii] If you want the collector to stop calling you, they must cease their debt collection efforts if you send them a letter indicating that you dispute any portion or the entire amount of the debt.[iii] Despite the clear and well-stated collection practice rules stated in the FDCPA, debt collectors violate Federal law and consumers can sue them and win in court.

Suzanne Husted’s story: fighting back against bad debt collectors

Like many people who experience a cash flow crisis from time to time, Suzanne Husted chose to take out two payday loans, each for $300, and paid them back within a few months. Husted took and repaid the payday loans about 10 years ago. One day recently, Husted started receiving phone calls from two different debt collection companies claiming she still owed $2,400 in principal and interest for the payday loans. She was threatened with being sued and hauled into court if she did not pay.

Assuming the collectors had bad information upon which they relied, Husted asked them to verify when she took out the payday loans. They responded and said she took the loans in 2010 and 2011, half a decade after Husted actually obtained and repaid the loans. Shockingly, when Husted asked for written verification of the loans, she was told she would only see that information when they file lawsuits against her. Husted started sending payments, in fear of being sued, for money she did not owe.[iv]

Consumers have a right to receive a debt validation notice from a creditor.

Federal consumer law is very clear, “Every collector must send you a written ‘validation notice’ telling you how much money you owe within five days after they first contact you. This notice must also include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and how to proceed if you don’t think you owe the money.[v]” If a creditor asks you for money and you do not think their records are correct, ask for the validation notice. There is a good reason a third party collector might not cooperate in sending you validation notice – they have no documentable proof you owe the debt!

Buying and selling lists of debts is big business in the debt collection industry. One of the top consumer complaints about debt collection practices is that debt collectors are trying to collect money the consumer either paid or no longer owe, or debts the consumer never incurred in the first place. An innocent consumer might find it shocking that debt collectors might knowingly try to collect on debts they cannot prove, but it is an unfortunately common practice.

Most common complaints against debt collectors
Image Source: http://bit.ly/1WMJVd4

Thousands of consumers complain and fight back when collectors refuse to provide debt validations.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFBP) receives tens of thousands of complaints about deceptive and fraudulent debt collection efforts. The failure to provide debt verification is a top complaint among consumers and their lawyers who file individual and class action lawsuits against bad debt collectors who violate consumer laws such as the FDCPA. To learn more and read about the worst offenders, read our recent blog article, Report Summary: The most reported abusive and deceptive debt collection companies on the Zamparo Law Blog.

If you receive a suspicious debt collection call, keep a good record. Always make a note of the date and time of a collection call and ask the caller for their name or operator identification number. Ask detailed questions about the debt they claim you owe, and ask for verification. Your time and damage from harassment are compensable by law. You may be entitled to sue for individual damages as well as statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

Fraudulent and deceptive collectors are counting on you not to do anything to stop them. Prove them wrong, and let them know consumers will fight for their rights. The Zamparo Law Group can help.

Zamparo ImageThe Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs harmed by debt collectors violating the FDCPA and other similar federal and state laws. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the collection companies who refuse to follow the law and use illegal tactics to force consumers to pay the debts they are hired to collect.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

[i] The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692p

[ii] Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, Debt Collection.

[iii] Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, Debt Collection.

[iv] Los Angeles Times, Business Column, When collectors call, demand proof of your debt, by David Lazarus, Jan 26, 2016.

[v] The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §1692g, Validation of Debts.

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Report Summary: The most reported abusive and deceptive debt collection companies

The Alliance for a Just Society is an organization dedicated to addressing economic, racial and social inequalities. This month, the group published an extensive research study, profiling the companies with the most complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for debt collection complaints. Federal law requires third party debt collectors to follow certain strict guidelines controlling how they are allowed to collect debts, and our article, Consumer protection overview of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), published on the Zamparo Law Group, Consumer Protection Blog explains the law in detail.

Some of the common complaints about debt collectors include: (1) Continued attempts at collecting debts not actually owed; (2) Improper communication tactics; (3) Disclosure of verification of the debt; (4) False statements or representations about debts; (5) Improper contact or sharing of consumer information; and (6) Threatening or taking illegal actions against individuals.

When a debt collector violates the FDCPA, our law firm can help clients enforce the law and seek a court’s award of actual damages suffered, statutory damages and attorney’s fees. Many people assume the aggressive debt collectors make significant money (a $13 billion industry in the U.S.[i]) using abusive tactics, and they may consider it a cost of doing business, to sustain lawsuits and judgments entered against them in Federal court. To help stop these unethical collection companies, we should learn and be aware of how they violate the law, and share this information with other consumers who may be victims of abusive and deceptive collection practices.

Most common complaints against debt collectors
Image Source: http://bit.ly/1WMJVd4

The following summary highlights and lists four of the worst offenders, identified by the Alliance for a Just Society in their January 2016 report, Unfair Deceptive and Abusive Debt Collectors Profit from Aggressive Tactics. Notice in the review below, the most common consumer complaints are the continued attempts at collecting debts not owed.

  1. Encore Capital Group, Inc.[ii]

The CFPB received more than twice the complaints about the Encore Capital Group than any other debt collection company, totaling more than 6 percent of all the debt collections complaints in the CFPB database. Between July 7, 2013 and August 7, 2015, the CFPB received 4,684 consumer complaints. Encore is the second-largest debt collector, pursing collections of 7.5 percent of the debts in the U.S.; their President and CEO’s 2014 executive compensation was $5,190,334.

The three most common issues raised by consumers were: (1) Continued attempts to collect debt not owed; (2) Disclosure verification of debt; and (3) Communication tactics.

Example of a consumer complaint: “I have been receiving numerous calls from [Encore subsidiary] Midland Credit. They are looking for someone else, not me, for over a month. Sometimes it is automated and they just ring the phone; I called them back XXXX times and asked them to take off my number — calls keep coming. Today I spoke to a person that said he would remove it from the automated calls and now the manual calls have begun.”

  1. PRA Group, Inc.[iii]

The CFPB received 2,216 complaints about the PRA Group between July 7, 2013 and August 7, 2015. PRA is the third-largest debt collector, pursing collections of 6.9 percent of the debts in the U.S.; their Chairman of the Board, President and CEO’s 2014 executive compensation was $5,606,441.

The three most common issues raised by consumers were: (1) Continued attempts to collect debt not owed; (2) Communication tactics; and (3) Disclosure verification of debt.

Example of a consumer complaint: “My XXXX died owing a credit card debt. The debt collectors say I now owe the debt. My name is not on the application for credit nor have I benefited from the credit card. The debt collectors reported it to the credit reporting corps. And it appears on my credit report as a debt I failed to pay and fraud. I am applying to refinance my home and I am being denied because of the report. I have no other blemishes on my credit report. I can’t sleep with the fear of losing my home.”

  1. Enhanced Recovery Company, LLC.[iv]

The CFPB received 2,016 complaints about the Enhanced Recovery Company between July 7, 2013 and August 7, 2015. Enhanced Recovery pursues collections of 2.7 percent of the debts in the U.S.; their President and CEO’s 2014 executive compensation is not publicly available.

The three most common issues raised by consumers were: (1) Continued attempts to collect debt not owed; (2) Disclosure verification of debt; and (3) False statements or representation.

Example of a consumer complaint: “I received many calls from a debt collector, to the point where I had to change my phone number. This is a debt that is from 6+ years ago, which I don’t have proof that I paid but in fact did pay. They have gone ahead and reported it in my credit reports. I tried calling XXXX last time in an effort to solve this issue and was threatened that if I did not pay they would contact my XXXX and contact my employer (which they repeatedly called and that’s how we found out it was a false collection agency).”

  1. Citigroup, Inc.[v]

The CFPB received 1,553 complaints about the Citigroup between July 7, 2013 and August 7, 2015. Citigroup’s top paid executive, the Co-President’s 2014 executive compensation was $15,892,220.

The three most common issues raised by consumers were: (1) Continued attempts to collect debt not owed; (2) Communication tactics; and (3) Disclosure verification of debt.

Example of a consumer complaint: “Letter sent to me pertaining to my DEAD husband’s account. My husband died on XXXX XXXX, 1991 (almost XXXX years ago). I believe the account was paid off, but I might be wrong. But I do believe there is a statute of limitations with debt collections. I would consider XXXX years within that limit. Also, it was sent to my current address that has never been associated with my dead husband at all. I am not listed on this account at all.”

The remaining debt buyers and collectors on the Alliance for a Just Society list[vi] are:

  1. Expert Global Solutions.
  2. Resurgent Capital Services L.P.
  3. Capital One Financial Corp.
  4. Synchrony Financial.
  5. Convergent Resources, Inc.
  6. JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  7. Allied Interstate LLC.
  8. Bank of America Corporation.
  9. Navient Corp.
  10. Dynamic Recovery Solutions, LLC.
  11. Wells Fargo.

If you are experiencing similar complaints about these or any other debt collector, the Zamparo Law Group can help protect you and your consumer rights.

Zamparo ImageThe Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs harmed by debt collectors violating the FDCPA and other similar federal and state laws. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the collection companies who refuse to follow the law and use illegal tactics to force consumers to pay the debts they are hired to collect.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

[i]Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: CFPB Annual Report 2015.” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mar. 2015, p. 7.

[ii] See the Unfair Deceptive and Abusive Debt Collectors Profit from Aggressive Tactics (hereinafter “Consumer Complaints Profile Report”) at page 10.

[iii] Consumer Complaints Profile Report at page 12.

[iv] Consumer Complaints Profile Report at page 14.

[v] Consumer Complaints Profile Report at page 16.

[vi] Alliance for a Just Society, Unfair Deceptive and Abusive Debt Collectors Profit from Aggressive Tactics, Jan. 2016.

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About the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act

The Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act[i] (ICFA),identifies unlawfully deceptive business practices and provides legal remedies for consumers, borrowers and people doing business who are damaged by fraud and deception in the conduct of trade or commerce. The automobile sales, repossession and repair industries are historic in the incidence of fraudulent and deceptive practices where consumers too often rely on bad practices and faulty or missing disclosures of important information a consumer needs to make an informed decision. The ICFA covers commercial activity in a variety of product and service issues. The penalties for violating the ICFA include criminal and civil penalties and liability when a fraud or deception victim makes a complaint to the state or files a private lawsuit against the wrongdoing individual or business.

The ICFA defines unlawful practices as follows: “Unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices, including but not limited to the use or employment of any deception fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation or the concealment, suppression or omission of any material fact, with intent that others rely upon the concealment, suppression or omission of such material fact, [omitted[ii]] in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful whether any person has in fact been misled, deceived or damaged thereby.[iii]

Examples of unfair or deceptive acts include chain letters and pyramid schemes.

Chain referral sales techniques are prohibited under the ICFA[iv]. Chain letter referrals involve a seller convincing a buyer to make merchandise purchases and receive a discount if that buyer offers up the names of other potential customers to the seller, and where the seller is actually makes sales to those buyers, at which time the original discount offered to the buyer becomes effective, often in the form of a credit or commission reduction in the originally stated price.

A pyramid sales scheme[v] involves an operation or plan where a person in exchange for money or something of value (most often the promise of income from others you bring into the plan) is to participate in the same plan or operation of signing other people up in the operation of plan, and income is not primarily a function of the actual sale of goods or services sold. In some examples, there is a fee to join the plan, and when the person who joins, gets others to sign up, they receive a percentage of the others who sign up and pay their fee. The person at the top if the pyramid wins and makes money on everyone below or after them in the pyramid, and this is illegal in Illinois under the ICFA.

Failures to disclose information, providing false reports and threatening conduct are also illegal.

Consumers rely on accurate legally required disclosures in the sale of certain items, such as automobiles. Auto dealers must make certain disclosures about the vehicles they sell and when, for example, they fail to disclose to buyers that a vehicle suffered certain damage, there is a violation of the ICFA[vi]. Where inspection reports are required by state or local municipalities, the reports must be accurate. In the sale of homes, especially older homes, there is a potential for payoffs and fraud. In the example where a false termite inspection report was provided in a home inspection, the false report[vii] is an ICFA violation.

Not only the information involved in a commercial transaction receives the attention and force of the ICFA, the process in which the deal is handled may also be protected. In the example where a homeowner and their contractor were in dispute over an invoice for services, the plumber[viii] violated the ICFA by threatening to rip our newly installed pipes and turn off the water service unless the homeowner paid the bill.

Violations and ICFA damages are sought in both Illinois criminal and civil courts.

The office of the Illinois Attorney General has broad power to investigate and enforce the elements of the ICFA to protect the safety of Illinois residents and consumers from fraudulent, unfair and deceptive business practices.[ix] The Attorney General can investigate suspects and defendants charged with violations, requiring them to submit written statements as the office also conducts discovery, issues subpoenas for individuals and documents and conducts prosecution hearings and trials. There are harsh penalties for contempt when an individual or organization fails to comply with the Attorney General.

In civil cases for damages, a private citizen, often hires a consumer rights lawyer to file an individual lawsuit for damages as result of a violation of the ICFA protections against consumer deception and fraudulent practices. The violated consumer may recover compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees if they succeed in proving an ICFA violation.

In order to establish and prove a consumer fraud or deceptive practices violation the plaintiff must prove that there was, (1) a deceptive act or practice, (2) the defendant in the case relied on the plaintiff’s deception, and (3) that deception occurred in trade or commerce, (4) where the defendant suffered actual damages, proximately caused by the deception. For example, if you sell me a car from your dealership with a bogus damage disclosure, and the wheel falls off, leading to a car wreck, I can hire a lawyer, sue you and likely win money in court to pay for the damages, injuries, to punish you and pay for my lawyer.

Zamparo Law GroupThe Zamparo Law Group, P.C. will enforce the law and protect your consumer rights.

If you are involved in a bad business deal or transaction and believe that the other party violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, you may call the Zamparo Law Group and ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group attorneys will tell you if your bad business deal is covered by the ICFA and whether you have a cause of action against another individual or organization that you may be able to win or settle in or out of court.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

[i] The Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 ILCS 505/1 et seq.

[ii] Omitted: “or the use or employment of any practice described in Section 2 of the “uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act”, approved August 5, 1965.”

[iii] ICFA 815 ILCS 505/2, Sec. 2 Unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

[iv] ICFA 815 ILCS 505/2A

[v] ICFA 815 ILCS 502/1(g)

[vi] Totz v. Continental DuPage Acura, 236 Ill. App. 3d 891 (1992).

[vii] Warren v. LeMay, 142 Ill. App. 3d 550 (1986).

[viii] Ekl v. Knecht, 223 Ill. App. 3d 234 (1991).

[ix] ICFA 815 ILCS 505/3-6

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What exactly is “Consumer Law?”

When we tell people that we are lawyers, they inevitably ask, “What kind of lawyer are you?” When we say that we are consumer lawyers, they quickly move on to another topic of discussion. We find that few people—other lawyers included!—have an accurate conception of what consumer law is. Even other monikers like “consumer rights law” and “consumer protection law” still leave people at a loss concerning what we do.

It’s true: “consumer law” can be a bit confusing because it encompasses so many areas of the law. Generally, however, it deals with issues arising out of consumer credit transactions and deceptive sales practices. These seemingly simple areas involve a host of laws including federal laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Driver Privacy Protection Act, and state laws prohibiting unfair and deceptive business practices, mortgage foreclosure, and fraud, just to name a few!

  1. Defending Debtors’ Rights

Stopping harassment, defending collections lawsuits, providing consumer credit counseling, and working to settle and eliminate consumer debt short of bankruptcy.

  1. Credit Reporting

Fighting the effects of identity theft and employment background check errors, correcting improper credit reporting; advising about bankruptcy, and stopping unauthorized credit inquiries.

  1. Mortgage Lending

Defending foreclosure suits, fighting foreclosure “rescue” scams; stopping predatory lending.

  1. Telephone Consumer Protection Act

Stopping abusive patterns of excessive and harassing collection calls to cell phones without consent.

  1. Unfair and Deceptive Business Practices

Holding businesses accountable for playing fair in the marketplace.

credit card sharksWe once met a client who had been searching online for a lawyer regarding a debt harassment issue that had plagued him for over five years. His searches, frustratingly, consistently led him to personal injury attorneys. Finally, a friend told him to look up “consumer” attorneys. He immediately found our firm and found the help he needed. Don’t let this be you! If any of the above describe what you’re dealing with, contact us today.

As consumer lawyers, we are proud to advocate for and protect the rights of everyday people from all walks of life. We look forward to serving you, too.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook page. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforces rules for mortgage settlement and servicing.

Mortgage loan servicing and Regulation X, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act

Real estate purchase and sale transactions are significant financial events for consumers. The paperwork and disclosures involved in real estate buying and selling is complex. The state and federal consumer protection laws are designed to protect real estate consumers. The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), established by Congress on December 22, 1975, is the federal law regulates the real estate settlement service process. The U.S. Consumer Financial and Protection Bureau (CFPB) enforces RESPA and its rules for mortgage settlement and servicing. Regulation X is the body of law that implements RESPA. In 2014, a final rule amending Regulation X lists mortgage servicing rules and regulations to make the loan settlement and servicing process fair and transparent for consumers.

January 2014, final rule modifications to Regulation X for mortgage servicer regulations.

Final rule changes to Regulation X, amended by the CFPB, January 17, 2013, and effective January 10, 2014, provide substantive and technical rules and procedures to improve the process of loan settlement and servicing. “Changes included modifying the servicing transfer notice requirements and implementing new procedures and notice requirements related to borrowers’ error resolution requests and information requests. The amendments also included new provisions related to escrow payments, force-placed insurance, general servicing policies, procedures, and requirements, early intervention, continuity of contact, and loss mitigation.[i]” The ineffective and inefficient policies and procedures in home loan modifications needed updating to protect consumers.

The January 2014 Regulation X final rule changes implement Dodd-Frank Act sections stating mortgage loan servicer obligations with respect to “periodic mortgage statements, disclosures for ARMs, prompt crediting of mortgage loan payments, requests for mortgage loan payoff statements, error resolution, information requests, and protections relating to force-placed insurance.[ii]

The final rule amendment also requires mortgage loan servicers to establish policies and procedures to provide borrowers with loss mitigation options for delinquent loans, notably procedures “providing delinquent borrowers with continuity of contact with servicer personnel capable of performing certain functions.[iii]

Modifying and streamlining the servicing related provision of Regulation X, the final rule revises professions relating to mortgage servicers obligations to provide disclosures to borrowers and the management of escrow accounts.

These policies and procedures should make the loan modification process more efficient and effective. Despite the new changes, some lenders and banks fail to update their practices to meet the new standards, or they make serious mistakes and violate the law, for which there are available consumer remedies.

Knowing what to expect under new federal rules and how to spot a RESPA, Regulation X violation

Consumers have the right to a prompt and clear exchange of information and a responsive relationship with mortgage servicers with Regulation X as amended. The CFPB publishes a mortgage consumer summary of the rules for mortgage servicers. Regulation X provides remedies for consumers, for violations of many of the communication, information, error, disclosure and documentation requirements of mortgage servicers.

If your mortgage loan servicer fails to provide or transfer information, or they fail to timely work to update accurate information, there could be a Regulation X violation. Likewise, if there are changes to an adjustable mortgage rate, your servicer must notify you within a specific amount of time. If you have problems paying your mortgage loan, there are procedures in the law to help you at no cost. At any point in the process of obtaining or servicing a mortgage loan, there can be a failure to follow the law. Consumer protection attorneys can review the facts in your situation and tell you whether your mortgage loan servicer is violating RESPA rules, Regulation X and otherwise.[iv]

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm that files lawsuits against violators of federal and state consumer protection laws. Learning how to spot consumer rights violations is important so that informed consumers can stand up to those who violate the law.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook page. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

[i] Federal Reserve Bank, Regulation X, Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act

[ii] Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mortgage Servicing Rules under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (Regulation X)

[iii] Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2013 Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (Regulation X) and Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z) Mortgage Servicing Final Rules.

[iv] Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Have a mortgage? What you can expect.

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Automatic telephone dialers, consent, business relationships and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991[i] (TCPA) restricts telemarketers engaging in telephone solicitations, limiting the use of automatic dialer systems, pre-recorded or computer voice messages, SMS text messages and fax machines. More than 20 years ago when the TCPA was written, our technology did not include smart phones and text messaging features like the ones available today. Over time and recent years the courts have expanded language in the TCPA to consider the use of auto-dialer software in connection with mobile phone and communication technology.

Cell phones are becoming more common as primary phone numbers over land line phones. Telemarketers are able to reach consumers on cell phones much easier than calling them at home on their land line just before dinner. Text messaging to cell phones is also an attractive way to connect with a consumer, when many reports suggest that 90 percent of text messages are read. Today the TCPA protects consumers from telemarketers, collectors, creditors and anyone engaged in sales and marketing from calling and sending us text messages without our consent or being in a existing business relationship.

Consent and existing business relationships are considerations in determining violations of the TCPA.

The law requires a company using automatic dialing software to call or send text messages to have prior written consent, often an element of an existing business relationship with the customer. For example, your cell phone carrier’s service agreements include language where you, the customer gives the cell phone carrier consent to call or text you on your phone. The same language may include an “opt out” provision where you, the customer can withdraw the consent to be contacted. If the cell phone company otherwise did not have your consent, they would violate federal law, the TCPA, by contacting you using an auto-dialer device.

There is a difference between prior express consent and express written consent, which is a higher standard and requirement imposed on marketing firms who want to use an auto-dialer to contact potential customers with offers. Sometimes an auto-dialing system includes the use of a pre-recorded voice message that starts playing when you answer the phone. The TCPA requires an interactive option to opt out of being included on a call list within the first two seconds of a pre-recorded auto-dialed phone call. The next time the phone rings and the voice of a pop culture icon or politician tells you to hold the line for some amazing information, it might be smart to write down the date, time and number that called you and whether you gave anyone consent.

Consumers are encouraged to keep telephone logs and make note of unauthorized robo-calls.  

Habitually writing down or keeping a going record of incoming phone calls is a good practice, especially if you want to help catch and stop companies from violating your rights to not be called and messaged on your cell phone or at home on your land line phones. Companies make large profits engaging in telesales and credit collection firms rely on auto-dialers and technology to try and call and reach as many targeted people as possible. If these companies fail to follow the law our phones could be ringing off the hook and being “blown up” by text messages all day and night long. Many times the plaintiffs in TCPA violation cases are part of a larger class of wronged people, and the class action lawsuits with huge jury verdicts matter.

Violations of the TCPA, when auto-dialers are used to contact people without prior required consent are $500 per call, and if and when the violations are willful, the damages may be trebled to $1,500 per call. If a large company buys or otherwise has a list of phone numbers, imagine a seemingly infinite list, an auto-dialer can generate so many phone calls that TCPA damages for violations can be in the billions of dollars. Where there is large profit to be made there is large exposure to liability for not following federal law, the TCPA.

Do you get calls on your phone for other people, or was your number recycled? The TCPA applies to situations in which you might not even realize the caller is violating federal law.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm that files lawsuits against violators of the TCPA and federal and state consumer protection laws. Teaching consumers how to spot consumer rights violations is important because informed consumers can stand up to those who violate the law. If you have been receiving calls or messages from individuals to whom you did not give consent to contact you, it is possible there is a violation of the TCPA and the attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group are available to talk to you.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook page. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

[i] The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 277

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Consumer protection overview of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Consumers and debt collectors are the primary parties considered in the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA), (the Act), written to protect consumers from unfair business practices by third party debt collectors. The FDCPA protects consumers of goods in the marketplace for personal consumer use, where a debt is due, and a debt collector attempts to collect the amount due. The FDCPA only applies to the actions of debt collectors who are third parties with right to collect the debts of another. The FDCPA does not apply to original creditors collecting debts originally owed to them. Third parties, usually credit references, are referred to by the Act and there are limitations to how a debt collector can make contact with a third party of the debtor, when attempting to collect a debt.

There are three main legislative objectives of the FDCPA:

  1. Stopping, preventing and remedying unfair consumer debt collection practices;
  2. Protecting legitimate and rule abiding debt collectors from competitors with unfair debt collection practices; and
  3. Establishing a congressionally enacted uniform body of law controlling the legal collection of consumer debts with statutory standard practices.

There FDCPA contains multiple requirements debt collectors must follow exactly or be in violation of the Act, triggering remedial penalties.

Violations of the FDCPA include several prohibited actions that are abusive or harassing, false and/or deceptive, and unfair and unconscionable acts. These violations of these congressional prohibitions can lead to financial and marital instability, bankruptcies, loss of work and invasions of individual privacy. When a debt collector breaks one of the following consumer debt collection rules, they are subject to the legal penalties and fines and attorneys fees when a lawsuit is filed in the local federal court within one year of the date of violation.

Abusive or Harassing Acts by a debt collector, Violating the FDCPA are generally prohibited.[i] Acts or threats of violence or criminal activity violate the Act. Using obscene, profane or racially motivated language is a violation of the Act. Publishing or advertising a list of bad debtors, or threatening to put a consumer debtor on such a list is an Act violation. Debt collectors making excessive telephone calls to a debtor, or third party, or making their phone ring repeatedly to harass them are violators of the Act. A violation of the Act also occurs if the debt collector makes phone calls to the consumer debtor and fails to make meaningful disclosures of their identity.

False and/or Deceptive Acts by a debt collector, Violating the FDCPA are generally prohibited.[ii] If a debt collector falsely represents himself or herself as a lawyer, there is a violation of the Act. Debt collectors are prohibited from threatening criminal prosecution for nonpayment, or they violate the Act. Debt collectors also may not threaten lawsuits, garnishments or property seizures if they have no real legal ability to do so, for example, when the debt is old and past the statute of limitations to collect on the debt, and if the debt collectors do make those threats, there is an Act violation. Threatening to report false credit information is also prohibited and a debt collector violates the Act in making that credit reporting theft.

Unfair and Unconscionable Acts by a debt collector, Violating the FDCPA are generally prohibited.[iii] Debt collectors may not collect any monies from consumer debtors except for the amounts authorized by law, and extra fees and charges for payments of full or partial amounts cannot be charged to the consumer debtor or there is a violation of the Act. Post-dated checks also have special rules if they are accepted by debt collectors. First, is a debt collector agrees to accept a post-dated check, they must give the consumer debtor a minimum of three days written notice before endorsing and depositing the check for collection. Second, a debt collector may not ask for or accept a post-dated check under the debt collectors’ threat of criminal prosecution.

In addition to several bad debt collector acts that lead to Act violations there are FDCPA regulations and duties to comply with the rules for communication among debt collectors and consumer debtors.

The FDCPA regulates how a debt collector must communicate with a consumer owing a debt. The original communication in which the debt collector makes contact, they must specifically speak or state the language: “This communication is from a debt collector in an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose.” All subsequent communications must include a spoken or written statement, “This communication is from a debt collector,” or “This is an attempt to collect a debt.” [iv] In addition, there are five-day notice requirements a debt collector must satisfy to legally inform a consumer debtor of the nature of details of the debt they seek to collect.

Enforcement of the FDCPA rights and remedies for consumers involves damages, fines and the compensation for actual and statutory attorney fees where applicable.

Within one year of an act by a debt collector in violation of the Act, the consumer debtor, or third party receiving an abusive amount of phone calls, for example may file a lawsuit against the debt collector in a federal district court.

The remedies for violations of the Act include the following:

  1. A court’s award of actual damages suffered by the consumer debtor;
  2. Statutory damages allowed by the Act, up to $1,000; and
  3. Actual amounts of attorneys fees incurred and/or allowed by the Act.

In some cases, a violation of the FDCPA can be used as leverage in settlement efforts where debt collector may agree to accept less money than originally sought if the consumer debtor agrees to not file a lawsuit for violations of the Act.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs harmed by debt collectors violating the FDCPA and other similar federal and state laws. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the collection companies who refuse to follow the law and use illegal tactics to force consumers to pay the debts they are hired to collect. To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook page. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

[i] 15 USC § 1692d

[ii] 15 USC § 1692e

[iii] 15 USC § 1692f

[iv] 15 USC § 1692e(11)

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Roger Zamparo Jr. Attorney

Consumer Protection Podcast: Roger Zamparo walks us through an issue spotting exercise in a variety of consumer protection laws, state and federal.

Roger Zamparo recently presented an overview of consumer protection law and litigation on the podcast hosted by the Illinois Professional Licensing Consultants. The program titled, Spotting consumer protection issues and litigation with Roger Zamparo, highlights sources of consumer protection law and several examples of how unfair and deceptive business practices affect consumers.

Zamparo Law Group

The Zamparo Law Group defends consumers from deceptive and unfair business practices, abusive collection tactics, identity theft, and a host of other anti-consumer behaviors.

Topics covered in this podcast interviewclick here to listen now!

  • What is consumer protection law and how do attorneys help you recover from harm?
  • Does an injured victim pay attorneys fees or collect at the end, like in personal injury law?
  • What are the sources of law identifying conduct resulting in a consumer protection violation?
  • A brief overview of fair debt collection laws and what types of wrongs to watch for.
  • How the fair credit rules work and what the credit reporting agencies should do to protect you.
  • About the Driver Privacy Protection Act and concern about motor vehicle records.
  • What the Telephone Consumer Protection Act requires of telemarketers.

Roger Zamparo received a B.A. from Ohio University and his J.D. from The John Marshall Law School (where he is currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees). In his 35-year litigation practice, he has represented individuals and corporations in both state and federal courts. He has concentrated on several areas, including consumer law and legal malpractice. Please contact the Illinois Professional Licensing Consultants at (224) 847-3202 to be connected with Roger Zamparo if you have a consumer protection question or need to consult on your legal matter.

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