Tag: Debt Collection

CFPB shuts down law firm using automated lawsuit generator

The automated lawsuit generator used by the debt buying collection firm and a law firm makes automated dialers seem like going on a walk in the park with an old love interest. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) had no love for these law firms when it issued a Consent Order, on April 25, 2016, stopping them in their tracks. What is being called a high-volume lawsuit machine, violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA), the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), was not supervised by any lawyers, and it did not produce reliably credible lawsuits. The order was issued to stop the debt buying law firm of Pressler & Pressler, LLP and New Century Financial Services, Inc., who have both engaged in firing off automatic lawsuits at creditors for years, often based on “flimsy or nonexistent evidence.[i]

Collection efforts and lawsuits filed near the statute of limitations

States have limitations on the time in which they can file a lawsuit to enforce a debt, seeking an enforceable judgment, with which the law firm can go after your bank accounts, assets, income and tax refunds to collect on the judgment amount. We often hear stories about collection agencies making threats of lawsuits, something they cannot do if they are not lawyers. In this case, however, the lawyers were the ones who bought up and tried to collect on debts.

Stated in a recent Time article, “For years, Pressler & Pressler churned out one lawsuit after another to collect debts for New Century that were not verified and might not exist,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a press release. “Debt Collectors that file lawsuits with not regard for their validity break the law and violate the public trust. We will continue to take action to protect borrowers from abuse.[ii]

Automated lawsuit generators undermining the integrity of the legal system

If a debtor fails to pay by a set due date, a computerized system can automatically populate the name, address and vital data necessary to produce a summons and complaint for the amount the computer believes is owed, and these lawsuits can be printed in bulk, filed online, and otherwise populate the court docket, all without a lawyer reviewing everything to make sure the lawsuit is proper.

The law firm filing automatically generated cases did not ensure an attorney reviewed the petitions before they were filed with courts, rather they used, “untrained support staff, which spent less than 30 seconds a piece in some cases to verify the claims of each lawsuit.[iii]” When activity like this is allowed to occur, where lawyers are not reviewing lawsuits being filed, and a computer makes the judgment call to file the lawsuit, there is a breakdown in the integrity of the legal system because no reasonable person could rely on the authenticity of the documents or proceedings.

The CFPB found violations of the FDCPA and the CFPA 

After investigating and reviewing the allegations against and practices of Pressler & Pressler law firm and its debt-buying firm (collectively “respondents”), the CFPB issued a consent order, in agreement with the respondents, setting forth the findings, penalties and the further orders of the CFPB.

The CFPB findings state, “Respondents’ debt-collection litigation activities relied substantially on a non-attorney support staff that far outnumbers the Firm’s attorneys, along with a proprietary collection software system that the Firm uses to automate, review, and ensure compliance with its processes for receiving and preparing new lawsuits for its clients.[iv]

Finding that the respondents engaged in deceptive practices, the CFPB enjoined and restrained the respondents from continuing certain activities, such as:

  1. Prohibiting Debt-Collection Litigation Activities Without a Reasonable Basis;
  2. Prohibiting the Use of Deceptive Affidavits;
  3. Prohibiting Certain Pre-Judgment Discovery Practices; and
  4. Additional Conduct Provisions

The CFPB ordered fines to be paid to the bureau in the amount of $1 million for the law firm and $1.5 million for the debt buyer. In addition to the fines, there are significant and ongoing reporting and compliance requirements the respondents must satisfy.

The CFPB and the Zamparo Law Group are advocating for consumers and fighting back against deceptive and abusive collection firms that use tactics like computerized lawsuit generators.

If you believe a bill collector is trying to collect a debt you do not owe, and if you are receiving what seem like improper threats of lawsuits and documents that look like court filings, you might be a victim of a consumer law violation. The Zamparo Law Group can advise you of your rights and whether you have a case and what it may be worth.

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] Time.com, Money, It Just Got Harder for Debt Collection Agencies to Auto-Sue Borrowers, by Ethan Wolff-Mann, Apr. 25, 2016.

[ii] See HNi above.

[iii] See HNi above.

[iv] US CFPB Administrative Proceeding, In the Matter of: Pressler & Pressler, LLP, Sheldon H. Pressler, and Gerarld J. Felt, Apr. 25, 2016.

Advertising Material

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.

Advertising Material

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.

Advertising Material

The Fair Credit Reporting Act, responsibilities and remedies for consumer reporting violations

Decisions based on consumer reports of credit and financial histories directly influence the rates consumers pay for utilities, loans, insurance, and chances of being hired by employers. Approvals of rental applications, professional licensing and personal relationships when individual’s daily lives are affected by the collection of credit-based decisions and judgments.[i]  According to a 2015 study by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 23 percent of consumer reports contain inaccurate information.[ii] The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is the consumer reporting law regulating the collection, dissemination and the use of consumer credit information.[iii] The FCRA is enforced by the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and through private party lawsuits.

The FCRA regulates consumer reports, “any written, oral, or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the consumer’s eligibility for (a) credit or insurance to be used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes; (b) employment purposes; or (c) any other purpose authorized under 604 [§ 1681b].[iv]

Responsibilities and remedies for violations of the FCRA apply to users of consumer reports, furnishers of information, employee background checks and the activity of the consumer reporting agencies.

TransUnion, Equifax and Experian are the three major credit reporting agencies that collect and disseminate consumer credit information from furnishers who share reports with users, all defined by the FCRA. Additionally, there are dozens of nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies that focus on specific information. The consumer reporting agencies must keep procedures to provide the most accurate information about a consumer and provide that consumer with information about them, to verify that the consumer data is accurate. When consumers dispute and receive removals of negative credit information, that information may not be listed on any future reports without notifying the consumer within five days. There is also a limit of how long negative information may be listed on a consumer report. Most negative information must be removed within seven years, and 10 years when bankruptcy information is reported.

Creditors, defined by the FCRA are furnishers of consumer reporting information, with financial relationships with the consumer, such as credit card companies, auto finance and mortgage banking institutions. The Act requires creditors to provide complete and accurate information to the credit reporting agencies, and the creditors must investigate consumer disputes they receive from credit reporting agencies. Creditors have 30 days to respond to a consumer dispute and must verify, correct or delete the information on the consumer’s report. If a creditor reports negative information about a consumer to a consumer-reporting agency, the creditor must first provide the consumer with notice, within one month, and the notice is usually language about the creditor reporting negative information, which is located on monthly statements and communications.

Users of consumer reports are individuals and organizations with access to consumer reports who use the information contained in consumer reports to review background information to make decisions on insuring or lending money or credit to a consumer. A consumer report user may only obtain consumer reports for purposes identified as permissible under the Act, and that user must notify the consumer when an adverse decision or action is based on the review of the consumer report. When notifying the consumer, a report is required by the Act to identify the company or credit-reporting agency providing the reported information, so that the consumer may verify or contest the information in their report.

Employer conducting employment background checks require written consent of an applicant who must be told how the employer wishes to use and not misuse the information they obtain. If an employer decides against a hiring decision, they must furnish a copy of the credit report used and notify the applicant of their opportunity to dispute the information contained in their credit report before the employer makes their final adverse decision.[v]

Remedies for FCRA violations include actual and statutory damages, attorney’s fees and court costs as well as punitive damages.

It can be difficult determining the value of actual damages suffered by a consumer, when their consumer report information or rights are compromised under the FCRA, and statutory damages are allowed to identify a damage amount to award to a victim of a violation. In addition to the actual or statutory damage allowance, the attorney’s fees incurred by the individual plaintiff’s attorney are recoverable against the offender, as well as court costs incurred in litigating the claims for violations.

When a FCRA violation is done willfully, punitive damages may also be awarded to the individual or class of individuals in class action, with the intent in punishing and deterring an offender from continuing to violate the FCRA. Punitive damage awards can be significant, worth millions of dollars, and are often reported in the news which is good for consumer awareness and can urge more consumers to pay attention to credit and consumer reports.

There are many definitions, rules and exceptions set forth in the FCRA and the law interpreting its application in a variety of situations. An experienced consumer rights attorney working frequently with FCRA clients and cases can help violated consumers enforce their rights.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm that files lawsuits against violators of the FCRA 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.

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] Forbes, A Bad Credit Score Affects a Lot More Than Credit, by Heather Struck, Jul. 20, 2011.

[ii] Report to Congress Under Section 319 of the Fair and Accurate Transactions Act of 2003.

[iii] Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681

[iv] §603 – 15 U.S.C. § 1681a, Definitions; rules of construction.

[v] See Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, Employee Background Checks.

Advertising Material

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.

Advertising Material

Debt Collection

The collection of old debt has become a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States and many consumers are subject to unfair and abusive collection tactics at all stages in the collection process.

The consumer protection attorneys of Zamparo Law Group, P.C. can advise you of your rights when you are involved in debt collection and can help you protect yourself from harassment.

If you are being harassed by debt collectors, use this Collection Communications Log to keep track of when and how you are being contacted. It is one of the best ways to build a case for debt collection harassment.

Contact Us Today If You Have…

  • Received harassing phones calls about debt.
  • Been contacted about a debt discharged in bankruptcy.
  • Received countless phone calls at inconvenient hours of the day and night.
  • Received summons for a lawsuit.
  • Had your bank account frozen.
  • Had your wages garnished.
  • Been contacted by a collector at work.
  • Been contacted by a collector on your cell phone.

Advertising Material