Debt collectors usually contact consumers by phone or by mail, but recently debt collectors started to take new approaches to contacting consumers...
Double Jeopardy in the World of Debt Collecting
Is it illegal for a debt collector to seize your paycheck if another collector already has? Troy Doucet, the firm principal here at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A., shares advice and legal knowledge regarding the issue in the article Can a Debt Collector Come After Me if My Wages Are Already Being Garnished on Credit.com.
Doucet advises that a consumer lawyer should be contacted to help you when a debt collector is trying to seize your wages for something your wages have already been seized for. You as the consumer have the right to a hearing if you are being put at a disadvantage by two sources simultaneously for the same reason. Debt collectors do not always communicate with each other so there is a possibility this could happen. If the collectors are targeting you for different debts though, your possessions could also be at risk.
Debt collection laws vary state to state. In Ohio, a debt collector cannot take your wages or possessions without suing you and being awarded the right to first. Debt collection harassment is also a difficult action for a consumer to deal with. If you feel you are being targeted for debt that is not yours, a letter sent through the mail is the proper way to end this harassment. If you send a letter and are at fault for the debt then the collector may contact you one last time to inform you that they intend to take legal action. You can access more information on doucet.law regarding how to send the letter and what to include in the letter by clicking here.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers federally from debt collectors. The FDCPA protects consumers from being contacted in the workplace and ensures a written letter is the correct way to end collection harassment. The FDCPA also helps collect damages from debt collectors at fault and helps enforce that the debt collector will cover the charges for your attorney fees in the end if the collector is found at fault.
Ohio Attorney General Special Counsel Now Subject to FDCPA: Gillie v. Law Office of Eric A Jones, LLC
In May, the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals determined in Gillie v. Law Office of Eric A. Jones, LLC, No. 14-3836, that attorneys working as contracted debt collectors for the Ohio Attorney General are subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Attorney General’s office, which is responsible for collecting debts owed to the State, often contracts attorneys to act as debt collectors under the title of “special counsel.” Along with this special counsel title came the letterhead of the Ohio Attorney General’s office, which was used when collecting consumer debt on behalf of the State. It is now likely a deceptive act under the FDCPA to use that letterhead, and thus a violation of federal law.
The FDCPA was passed in 1977 to protect consumers from abusive debt collection practices. Congress found that debt collection agencies often operated with the mentality that debt was to be collected at any cost, creating incentives to mislead, or sometimes bully consumers into paying their debts. However, in passing the act, Congress made exemptions for employees and officers of the State when collecting debts owed to the government. Whether or not Ohio Attorney General special counsel was protected under these exemptions was a fundamental issue that the Sixth Circuit Court had to decide.
The plaintiffs, Pamela Gillie and Hazel Meadows, filed a lawsuit against several law firms acting as special counsel for the Ohio Attorney General. They argued that the use of the Attorney General’s letterhead was intentionally misleading, and therefore a violation of the FDCPA. After a lower district court ruled in favor of the defendants, the decision was appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court. The court determined that whether or not the special counsel debt collection letters were misleading was a matter best left for a jury, but held the FDCPA did apply to special counsel acting for the Ohio Attorney General when collecting medical debts for the State.
The Sixth Circuit Court determined that special counsel was in no way considered to either be employees or officers of the State of Ohio, despite their use of the Attorney General letterhead. Because of their nature as contractors for the State, the court determined that any special counsel attempting to collect consumer debt for the Ohio Attorney General was subject to the FDCPA. In this case, special counsel was acting to collect past due OSU medical debts.
The Sixth Circuit Court determined that special counsel is subject to the FDCPA when attempting to collect consumer debts for the State, due to the nature of their relationship with the Ohio Attorney General. Because they were contracted by the Attorney General, and not hired or appointed, they are not protected under the exemptions they claimed. This firm believes that the letters will likely be determined to violate the law, and that the consumer/debtors will recover under the FDCPA. If you think that you may have been affected by this practice, then please call Doucet & Associates at (614) 944-5219.
How to Stop Debt Collection Calls
Debt collection agencies use a wide range of tactics to collect on past-due accounts. Many are illegal, including:
• Threatening arrest or jail time; • Calling employers about the debt; • Robocalling or texting a cell phone; • Calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.; • Saying liens will be placed on income; • Threatening violence; • Telling a lie, misstating the debt; and • Mailing a letter with false information in it.
Consumer lawyer Troy Doucet of the Dublin-based law firm Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. says consumers have the right to stop collection calls and letters. He explains that the most straightforward method is to write a letter to the collector asking it to stop calling. Collectors must comply with any written demand. Thus, Doucet recommends you make a copy and send it certified mail. Debt collectors are not required to stop calling if the request is only over the phone – the cease and desist demand must be in writing.
Another way to stop the collection agency from calling is to retain a lawyer. The moment a collection agency is aware of legal representation it must immediately stop calling and instead work directly with the debtor’s attorney. There is no written requirement here – merely telling the collector you are represented by counsel ends their ability to contact you further. However, Doucet notes that you must tell them your attorney’s name and phone number when asked.
The federal law governing debt collectors is called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The law has considerable teeth, and the damages available to people under the law include requiring the collector to pay all attorneys’ fees and expenses. The law is designed so that any single violation of the law – including calling after a cease and desist letter is sent – triggers the law’s full protection and damages. Doucet recommends that anyone being harassed by a debt collector seek out legal representation. As he puts it, “going through a tough time in life does not give a debt collector the right to walk all over you.”
Firm Sues Law Firm Kaman & Cusimano
Doucet & Associates, a small firm dedicated to protecting the rights of the consumer, has filed a lawsuit against Kaman & Cusimano, LLC, for violating the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) by selling Doucet’s client’s home without giving her the opportunity to pay back the amounts owed.
Kaman & Cusimano, LLC, represent the Coventry Manor Condominium Association. According to the lawsuit, in April of 2010, Coventry Manor filed a complaint in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to foreclosure condominium lien against Doucet’s client for past due condo fees. Coventry Manor was granted a default judgment and a decree of foreclosure.
Coventry Manor did little with the decree of foreclosure for two years until the fall of 2012, when Coventry Manor requested a legal document ordering the sale of the condo. According to the lawsuit, the condo was appraised and put in a sheriff’s auction, all without Doucet’s client’s knowledge. The condo did not sell until a year later, and for less than half of what the homeowner had originally paid for it.
A month later the homeowner learned about the sale. She retained foreclosure counsel and contacted Kaman & Cusimano to find out the payoff amount in order to redeem her home by paying the Association in full. Kama allegedly sent her a letter stating her right to redeem her home had expired three days after the sale was made — a claim the lawsuit alleges is untrue. They neglected to include a payoff quote, and the sale of the home was then confirmed by the court before the homeowner was given that final opportunity to pay off the Association dues.
Doucet’s client claims Kaman & Cusimano violated the FDCPA by falsely stating she had forfeited her right to redeem her home, as well as obstructing her rights by not including a payoff quote. She is suing for actual, emotional, statutory and other damages in addition to attorney fees and the cost of moving from her condo.
Doucet & Associates is dedicated to fighting for the rights of consumers, protecting their interests and offering legal assistance to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it. If you feel that a company is taking advantage of you, the law firm welcomes your call at (614) 944-5219.