A debt collection company that operated nationwide and used intimidating tactics to try to get consumers to pay has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they violated federal law. The settlements bar future violations and require the defendants to pay $225,000.
According to the FTC complaint, the agency, which was trying to collect about three million consumer accounts every state, falsely threatened that consumers who didn’t pay their debts would have their wages garnished, be arrested, or be sued. The FTC alleged that the defendants used illegal and abusive debt collection methods including:
- Calling consumers before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.;
- Calling their workplace when the agency knew or had reason to know that the calls were inconvenient;
- Telling employers, co-workers, relatives, and neighbors about their debts;
- Contacting consumers after they told them to cease contact, and
- Using abusive and harassing tactics, such as calling repeatedly during the same day or right after debtors hung up with them, and using profane and abusive language.
All of these practices are illegal under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and under many state laws as well. Hundreds of consumers complained to the Federal Trade Commission, the Metropolitan New York Better Business Bureau, their state attorneys general’s offices, and to the collector itself. Despite these numerous complaints, the agency apparently did not discipline employees or seriously investigate complaints. However, the complaints prompted an investigation into their practices.
The FTC settlements prohibit the defendants from further violations of the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The debt collection company involved in this settlement was Oxford Collection Agency, Inc., doing business as Oxford Management Services; Richard Pinto; Peter Pinto; and Charles Harris. There was also a settlement with Salvatore Spinelli, individually, and d/b/a Salvatore Spinelli, Esq., Attorney-at-Law.
This settlement illustrates why is it so important for consumers to speak up when they believe they are being illegally harassed by a debt collection company. Debtors should keep in mind, however, that the FTC does not get involved in individual disputes. Consumers should know their rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and contact a consumer law attorney for help with a debt collection company that may be breaking the law.
To file a complaint against a debt collection company, use the FTC online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
NOTE: The FTC issues a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public
interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law. Stipulated final orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. A stipulated final order requires approval by the court and has the force of law when signed by the judge.