The Federal Trade Commission recently struck a blow for consumers in Ohio and the other 49 states, against debt collectors who do not follow the provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or the
Fair Credit Reporting Act. Asset Acceptance, LLC is a consumer debt buyer based in Michigan, and is one of the largest businesses of this type in the entire nation. Recently a consent decree settlement was reached between Asset Acceptance, LLC and the FTC, and this agreement includes a 2.5 million dollar penalty for a number of violations concerning consumer debt protections.
According to the settlement Asset Acceptance, LLC was charged with a number of counts. The FTC found that the company used illegal debt collection practices and that consumers across the nation were harmed as a result, including consumers in Ohio. The complaint lists 9 charges that violate the FDCPA and/or the FCRA. According to the FTC Asset Acceptance, LLC used illegal debt collection practices, and regularly misrepresented debts which were no longer legally collectible under the law in an effort to get the consumer to pay. Once a payment is made on a debt that can not be legally enforced and is outdated then the debt time line is activated once again, and the debt can be enforced because of a the payment. According to the FTC a number of debts that Asset Acceptance, LLC was trying to collect on were far past the allowed statute of limitations on debt collection and were not legally enforceable.
David Vladeck, who is the Director of the Bureau Of Consumer Protection for the FTC, stated “Most consumers do not know their legal rights with respect to collection of old debts past the statute of limitations. When a collector tells a consumer that she owes money and demands payment, it may create the misleading impression that the collector can sue the consumer in court to collect that debt. This FTC settlement [with Asset Acceptance] signals that, even with old debt, the prohibitions against deceptive and unfair collection methods apply.”
The FTC included 9 separate charges against Asset Acceptance, LLC in the complaint that led to the consent settlement and 2.5 million dollar fine. These charges included:
ñ Providing negative information to credit reporting agencies when Asset Acceptance knew or had reasonable cause to believe that the information it was providing was not correct or accurate.
ñ Asset Acceptance routinely employed illegal debt-collection practices. It misrepresented the character, amount, and legal status of debts. It provided incorrect or inaccurate information to the credit reporting agencies. And it made false representations for the purpose of collecting debts.
ñ Misrepresenting to consumers that they owed a debt when, in fact, Asset Acceptance could not substantiate its representations.
ñ Failing to conduct a reasonable investigation when Asset Acceptance received notice from a credit reporting agency that the consumer disputed the negative report.
ñ Failing to provide written notice to consumers that Asset Acceptance had provided negative information to a credit reporting agency.
ñ Asset Acceptance failed to provide verification of debts as required by law following any consumer’s dispute about the debt. Instead of providing verifications, the company continued with its collection efforts.
ñ Asset Acceptance repeatedly called third parties who did not owe any debt.
ñ Asset Acceptance also repeatedly informed third parties about the existence of consumers’ debts.
ñ Failing to disclose to consumers that the debts it was collecting on were too old to be legally enforceable. And also failing to disclose to consumers that, by making a partial payment on the debt, the consumer would actually revive the obligation and extend the time frame within which such debt could be legally enforceable.
The 9 charges show just how blatantly Asset Acceptance, LLC ignored the FDCPA and FDRA, and the consumer debt collection protections that these laws and regulations include. The consent decree entered includes more than just a 2.5 million dollar penalty though, it also includes stipulations that Asset Acceptance, LLC must follow. The agreement includes the following conditions as well:
ñ Asset Acceptance must investigate any consumer dispute and determine whether there is a reasonable basis for a claim that the consumer owes the debt.
ñ Collection efforts by Asset Acceptance, LLC can not continue until this investigation has been completed.
ñ Consumers must be notified by Asset Acceptance, LLC when a negative reported is placed on the credit report of the consumer.
The agreement goes on to stipulate that Asset Acceptance is legally prohibited from any future violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or the Fair Credit Reporting Act. These acts include:
ñ Making any material misrepresentation, expressly or by implication, to collect or to attempt to collect a debt or to obtain information concerning a consumer.
ñ Making any material representation, expressly or by implication, that a consumer owes a debt or as to the amount of a debt, unless, at the time of making the representation, Defendant has a reasonable basis for making such representation.
This penalty and settlement puts debt collection businesses on notice that the FTC is watching, and will take steps to protect consumers from illegal or unfair debt collection practices. Hopefully this is just the first of many, and will provide Ohio debtors with some relief from abusive, harrassing, or deceptive debt collection practices.
The bankruptcy attorneys at Richard West Law can help provide a free debt consolidation consultation to help you find the right answer for your unique debt problems and circumstances. Stop creditor harassment and deception once and for all. Visit https://www.debtfreeohio.com or call (513)771-8700 or (937)748-1749 to get the answers you want, and the financial relief you are looking for.