CFPB resolves UDAAP allegations with debt collection company
On November 1, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri ordered a Missouri-based company to pay a $30,000 civil money penalty to resolve allegations that it used district-attorney letterhead to threaten consumers with criminal prosecution. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB filed a complaint against the company claiming it allegedly engaged in deceptive and otherwise unlawful debt collection acts and practices in the course of operating “bad-check pretrial-diversion programs on behalf of more than 90 district attorneys’ offices throughout the United States.” The complaint claimed that the company not only failed to include required FDCPA disclosures in the letters it sent to consumers, it also failed to identify itself in the letters and did not inform consumers that it was a debt collector and not a district attorney. Moreover, in most cases the company did not refer cases for prosecution, even if the check writer failed to respond to the collection letter, did not pay the alleged outstanding debt and fees, or failed to complete the financial-education course. Under the terms of the settlement, the company is, among other things, permanently banned from engaging in debt collection activities and is prohibited from disclosing, using, or benefiting from customer information obtained before the order’s effective date in connection with a Pre-Trial Bad Check Diversion Program. Additionally, the company may not “attempt to collect, sell, assign, or otherwise transfer any right to collect payment from any consumer who purchased or agreed to purchase services or products in connection” with the company’s program. The company is ordered to pay more than $1.4 million in redress to harmed consumers; however, full payment of this amount is suspended upon satisfaction of certain obligations due to the company’s financial condition. The $30,000 penalty also reflects the company’s limited ability to pay.