On March 30, 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) announced that a California-based debt collection agency agreed to settle claims over alleged illegal and deceptive collection practices in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (“CFPA”) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The CFPB alleged in its complaint that the collection agency allegedly sent debt-collection demands to consumers who had written bad checks, using the letterhead and signatures of local prosecutors to give their mailings the imprimatur of official government action. The letters were often sent prior to receiving prosecutorial approval for collection efforts. The collection agency also threatened to prosecute consumers unless they paid their bad-check debt and enrolled in a $200 class. As part of the settlement, the collection agency agreed to cease representing that they were part of a prosecutor’s office — they may instead refer to a prosecutor’s office but must clearly disclose that they are a private company administering a pre-trial bad check diversion program. The company also agreed to stop its practice of threatening consumers with prosecution and to submit to increased oversight. The collection agency agreed to a $50,000 civil penalty.
Blog Enforcement Watch March 30, 2015