In the News 06/30/2015

Beau Runningen, owner and founder of the new debt collection platform Settle4Less, has been developing his site for many years.

An online platform that targets consumers with delinquent debt, Settle4Less recruits creditors, service providers and collections agencies to register in its database and utilize its signature “debt capture method.”

According to Runningen, the debt capture method creates a safe way for consumers to take charge of their debt by offering them the ability to pay what they can without contacting or negotiating with a collector. Consumers can accept a one-time “take it or leave it” amount and pay it off online. Debts covered on the site include credit card, loan, insurance, medical and utility bills. Runningen believes that his method will revolutionize the debt collection industry.

Settle4Less practices are not prohibited under the FDCPA, but it remains unseen how this method will affect the collections industry.

For more information, visit http://www.pr.com/press-release/625272.

In the News 06/23/2015

In the most recent ACA International Convention, seasoned attorneys presented on their experience defending against FDCPA claims involving allegations of emotional distress and interpreting “actual damages.”

The convention, which took place in Boston, promoted a legal education session called Shifting Sands: Court Interpretation of “Actual Damages” in an effort to engage active attorneys and experts on legal issues in a panel discussion on an increasingly common case faced by the credit and collection industry. Courts across the country have handed down disparate rulings regarding the emotional distress theory, and some jurisdictions have made is easier than others for plaintiffs to assert these claims.

For more information, visit http://www.acainternational.org/news-spotlight-on-legal-education-session-court-interpretations-of-actual-damages-36188.aspx.

In the News 06/09/2015

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently conducted a study to measure consumers’ understanding of reverse mortgages. Like many financial options, advertisements and explanations for reverse mortgages found on TV, in print and online depict happy people that are using their extra money to live fuller lives. However, many people do not completely understand what a reverse mortgage is.

A reverse mortgage is a special loan that allows homeowners age 62 or older to borrow against the accrued equity of their homes. According to the CFPB, many people believe a reverse mortgage is a government benefit for senior citizens. However, a reverse mortgage loan must be paid back in full when the borrower dies, moves or no longer lives in their home.

The CFPB study looked at multiple ads and platforms and found that most have incomplete or inaccurate information to describe the loans and that most of the important loan requirements were buried in the fine print, leaving borrowers with the false impression that reverse mortgage loans are risk-free.

Many participants involved with the study did not know that reverse mortgages had to be repaid, that they had attached interest or that they could lose their homes if they did not satisfy the loan requirements.

For more information, visit: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/consumer-advisory-dont-be-misled-by-reverse-mortgage-advertising/.

In the News 05/26/2015

In a recent case against three major credit reporting agencies, one Ohio woman may have changed the landscape for the thousands of consumers who are unable to correct problems with their credit reports each year.

For 12 years, Julie A. Sagstetter endured calls, letters and posted notices from collectors and the sheriff’s department for failing to pay her bills. However, the collectors had her confused with another woman, Julie V. Sagstetter. Although Julie A. consistently tried correcting the information, the agencies refused to admit their mistake and continued harassing her.

Julie A. finally contacted Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in a desperate attempt for help. DeWine launched a case against Experian, Equifax and TransUnion that led to a settlement that will hopefully change this type of behavior. A total of 31 states have announced a crackdown on some of the nation’s largest credit-reporting agencies this past week.

The agreement requires the agencies to launch investigations when consumers report mistakes and keep a list of credit companies that regularly provide inaccurate information on credit reports, among other things.

For more information, visit http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/05/20/mike-dewine-credit-scars.html.

In the News 05/19/2015

We don’t often discuss debt collection outside of the United States, but collections news continues to rule headlines all over the world. In the news today, Frankfurt buyout group Permira entered into an agreement to buy large German debt collection firm GFKL from Advent.

The rise of e-commerce in Germany is driving the growth of the country’s debt collection industry, but just like the United States, Germany has felt the sting of economic hardship, especially in the area of energy.

According to Permira representatives, the business is taking advantage of the fragmented debt collection market in Germany to increase their size and consolidate other firms into their fold.

While the specific amount paid has not been released, GFKL’s net worth has risen in recent years from 196 million euros in 2013 to 244 million euros in 2014. Insiders say this deal was worth more than 600 million euros ($684 million).

Adapted from http://www.reuters.com/.

In the News 05/12/2015

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) recently granted a petition seeking the review of what may be a historic standing case. SCOTUS will hear this case against the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) during the October 2015 term.

The case involves a plaintiff claiming that he suffered actual harm when an online search engine acting as a credit reporting agency (CRA) published inaccurate information about his character and background, a violation of the FCRA. The act requires CRAs to maintain accuracy and provide notice of published information.

SCOTUS’ decision to hear the case has gained national attention. Various briefs have been written highlighting the affects a ruling on this issue could have.

Widely considered the most talked about privacy class action law suit of the year, Robins v. Spokeo, Inc. (No. 13-1339) was originally heard before a federal district court. The court ruled that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate the “injury-in-fact” standard. Also called “standing,” “injury-in-fact” is a term used for the ability to demonstrate sufficient harm. The Ninth Circuit Court reversed this ruling, suggesting that the plaintiff does not need to demonstrate actual damages to file suit.

SCOTUS’ final decision will affect the degree to which consumers can utilize federal statutes to recover without proving additional causal injury, and an affirmation of the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision could open the courts up to a flood of “no-injury” lawsuits that force defendants to pay millions of dollars in damages without plaintiff’s proving any actual harm.

For more information, visit http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/supreme-court-to-hear-historic-fcra-stan-39074/ or http://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/x/393448/trials+appeals+compensation/US+Supreme+Court+Accepts+Review+Of+Robins+v+Spokeo+Inc.

In the News 04/28/2015

The Federal Trade Commission is planning to hold various dialogues around the country to discuss consumer protection issues with the debt collection industry.

The first event will be held on June 15, 2015 in Buffalo, New York and will be hosted by the Office of the New York Attorney General.

The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals International (ACA) will attend the discussion and provide input on behalf of the industry to make sure that its voice is heard. The agenda will include recent enforcement actions, consumer complaints about debt collection practices and compliance issues.

Other participants will include a representative from the CFPB and local collections professionals. Future discussions are scheduled to be held in Dallas and Atlanta and are free and open to the public.

For more information, check out the FTC website: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/events-calendar/2015/06/debt-collection-dialogue-conversation-between-government.

In the News 04/07/2015

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently announced that they will be taking action against a nationwide debt collection operation and it’s CEO for threatening consumers with criminal prosecution and jail time for writing bounced checks. National Corrective Group, a privately-held corporation based in California, is also charged with misleading consumers to believe that they were required to enroll in an expensive financial education program to avoid the criminal charges.

The CFPB’s proposed order is currently being reviewed by the federal district court. The order would end all illegal activity, impose a civil penalty of $50,000 and require new regulations on consumer disclosure and strong supervision of the bounced check program.

For more information, check out the following press:

http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=13641bb6-9b06-4422-b078-d44104647fb6

http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-bad-check-debt-collector/

In the News 04/01/2015

Law firms put their best foot forward to attract new clients and maintain their reputations.

However, sometimes it’s hard to think like a potential client. Westfair Communications Online recently published an article directed toward businesses looking to hire a law firm for complex legal transactions. Check out their list of criteria for choosing the best firm: http://westfaironline.com/70038/column-top-7-considerations-when-choosing-a-law-firm/.

This is a great resource for firms. It’s important to know what potential clients are looking for in a firm, and with this information, you can better market your skills, experience and reputation!

According to this list, many businesses want a firm that provides a “one-stop-shop” of legal knowledge and services so they can avoid having to hire multiple lawyers for each specific need. They also value depth and continuity when communicating with firms.