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Federal Courts Launch 2017 with Decisions Holding Unethical Debt Collectors Accountable for Abusive Collection Practices



CourtIf you are looking for an effective way to respond to a debt collection summons, you should consider filing a civil answer form that includes a counterclaim for damages against the debt collector for engaging in harassing or dishonest conduct in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Most consumers do not realize that regardless of whether they are indebted to a credit card company or other debt collector, they may be entitled to substantial damages if the debt collector has engaged in unlawful debt collection tactics. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from using "conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt," and "us[ing] unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt." 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692d & 1692e. This unlawful conduct may include the use of false, deceptive, or misleading representations or methods in connection with the collection of any debt. For example, debt collectors are prohibited from exaggerating the amount of a debt or falsely reporting a debt to a credit agency.

Recently, in a decision issued on January 6, 2017, in the case Motes v. Midland Funding, a federal court in Alabama ruled that a consumer had a valid claim for damages under the FDCPA against a debt collector who brought a lawsuit after the statute of limitations had expired. Filing lawsuits to collect stale debts is just one of the many examples of how debt collectors violate federal law.

Similarly, in a decision issued on January 3, 2017, in the case Bartle v. Enhanced Recovery Co., a federal court in Illinois allowed a consumer to proceed with a FDCPA claim against a debt collector for the debt collector's misconduct in using misleading language in its collection notice.

On January 3, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio awarded attorney's fees in favor of a consumer who was subjected to debt collection activities, including harassing telephone calls, by a collection agency for an internet provider. The internet provider was aware that the consumer suffered from dementia and had previously promised to remove the disputed charges. Yet, the debt collection practices continued even after these promises. The Ohio court's decision was entered into the case Ramsey v. Int'l Computer Systems.

In addition to the FDCPA's prohibition against dishonest or intimidating collection practices, federal law imposes strict procedural requirements on debt collectors. Debt collectors may be ordered to pay monetary penalties if they violate these procedures. For example, when debt collectors send a demand notice to a consumer, they are required to provide written notice that the consumer has thirty days after receipt of the notice to dispute the validity of the notice. Debt collection agencies and law firms have been forced to pay millions of dollars in damages for their rampant violation of these rules.

If you have experienced abusive debt collection practices, you may be entitled to substantial monetary damages that could exceed the amount of the debt. If you have been served with a debt collection summons, you should protect your rights by downloading a debt collection answer form and filing it with the court. If you ignore a civil summons, you may sacrifice basic legal rights that are available to you under state and federal consumer protection laws. This article is brought to you by AnswerForms.com, America's leading provider of consumer protection forms, including do-it-yourself answers to debt collection complaints for use in all courts.