Friday, October 10, 2008

West Virginia's State Attorney General Sues Florida Debt Collector

West Virginia's state attorney general's office has filed a lawsuit against Charles Howell & Associates, Inc., a Tampa-based debt collector. Gregory Wells, the company's president and CEO is also named as a defendant. The suit claims that Howell & Associates called West Virginians about nTelos cellular phone agreements involving several hundred dollars in cancellation fees.

Consumers were threatened with a law suit, although Howell & Associates have no lawyers on staff and do not file lawsuits. The debt collectors threatened to report consumers to law enforcement officials, disclosed consumers' debt information to employers and other third parties, and threatened to add more fees to the consumers' debts.

Debt collectors can receive commissions based on their collections, so they tend to be overly aggressive and may cross the line from a legal standpoint. Consumers are protected from debt collection harassment abuse by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act. If you have been contacted by Charles Howell & Associates, contact us.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Additional ways to avoid being harassed by a debt collector:

1. Complain to a Government Agency

If you are being harassed by a debt collector, contact an agency, such as the Federal Trade Commission or your state attorney general's office. These agencies enforce the laws that prohibit debt collection abuse.

2. Bankruptcy

Filing for personal bankruptcy stops all collection activity from collectors, creditors, or even government officials. But, as a general rule, debt collection harassment can be stopped without going to the extreme of filing bankruptcy. Bankruptcy should be saved for consumers that have serious financial troubles.

3. Sue the Debt Collector for Illegal Conduct.

Consumers are protected by federal and state fair debt laws, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act. Debt collectors often break these rules because they think they can get away with it or that consumers are unaware that they have rights in these matters. However, only consumer debt transactions are covered by these laws. Original creditors and their employees are excluded from the federal law.

Keep in mind, however, that the debt collector has specified defenses under the law, including bona fide error defense. This is a limited defense and the debt collector must show that it adopted reasonable procedures to avoid such errors.

Additional claims to consider in debt collection harassment cases include:
  • Tort claims such as invasion of privacy or defamation
  • State debt collection remedies
  • State unfair and deceptive acts and practices laws
  • State credit repair organization laws
  • Unauthorized practice of law statutes
  • Criminal Laws