On November 4, 2015, the Washington Attorney General announced five enforcement actions against debt collection companies. The enforcement actions are part of an ongoing partnership with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other federal agencies to investigate abusive debt collection practices. Enforcement Watch previously reported on the FTC partnership, named “Operation Collection Protection,” here. The Washington Attorney General announced five new enforcement actions that are part of Operation Collection Protection:
- A civil enforcement action against a regional debt collection company specializing in collection of judgments imposed by small claims courts. The company allegedly misrepresented its success rate and its ability to appear in court on behalf of judgment creditors. Because the company’s principal was not a licensed attorney, its alleged judicial collection efforts on behalf of judgment creditors allegedly constituted the unauthorized practice of law. The complaint alleges claims for unauthorized practice of law, misrepresentations in solicitation letters, and operating a collection agency without a license.
- A civil enforcement action against a debt collection attorney that allegedly mailed collection letters threatening litigation if consumers failed to settle collections accounts. According to the Attorney General, the attorney was not licensed to practice law in Washington and the letters contained misrepresentations regarding the attorneys’ ability to file lawsuits against consumers. The attorney and his debt collection company agreed to pay $22,000 in civil penalties and $10,000 in restitution as part of a consent decree. The attorney did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
- Two civil enforcement actions against regional debt collection companies that allegedly placed harassing phone calls, threatened to garnish wages, threatened to have consumers arrested or imprisoned, and who allegedly operated collection agencies without a valid Washington license. The complaints in these cases are available here and here.
- A civil enforcement action against a regional debt collection company for allegedly operating in Washington without a valid license. The parties settled the matter, with the debt collection company agreeing to pay $12,000 in costs and $3,000 in civil penalties. The debt collection company also must cease all collection efforts in Washington, or face an additional civil penalty of $30,000.