Consumer Finance Insights
July 8, 2016

District of Columbia Settles Unlawful Collection Claims Against Debt Collector

On June 21, the Attorney General for the District of Columbia announced a settlement with a debt collector for alleged violations of the District’s debt collection and consumer protection laws.  Specifically, the District alleged that the debt collector unlawfully sought collection of “court costs and legal fees without a supporting court order,” “left messages on consumers’ answering machines without verifying that the voicemail did not belong to a third party,” and “failed to adequately inform consumers who contested the debts on how they could request verification of their purported debts.”  The settlement requires the debt collector to pay full restitution to the District “in an amount equal to the court fees it collected or attempted to collect from consumers that were not awarded by a court” and to “discharge or remove” any purported debts for court fees that are not properly supported by a court order.  The debt collector has 120 days to furnish the District with a list of all affected consumers.  The debt collector also agreed to pay up to $45,000 to reimburse the District for costs incurred during the investigation.  Going forward, the settlement requires the debt collector to (1) not collect or attempt to collect court fees unless supported by a court order; (2) fully comply with all debt verification requirements of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA); (3) conspicuously disclose to consumers all steps required to contest the validity of a debt; (4) immediately cease collecting contested debts unless verification can be provided; and (5) not leave recorded messages disclosing consumer debts except as permitted by the FDCPA.  The debt collector denied that it violated any laws.