Friday, May 15, 2015

Federal Appeals Court: Bill Collection Racket Where Ohio AG's Office Authorized Private Attorneys To Use Its Letterhead To Scare People Into Paying Debts Owed To The State Violates FDCPA

From Public Citizen's Consumer Law & Policy Blog:
  • The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion [last] Friday holding that private attorneys under contract with the Ohio attorney general’s office to collect debts owed to the state improperly used the office’s letterhead to scare debtors into paying. The court held that use of the letterhead of the Ohio attorney general’s office was a “false, deceptive or misleading” communication in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692e.

    With one judge on the three-judge panel dissenting, the court vacated a district court’s decision for the debt collector and the attorney general’s office, which had appeared in the case as an intervenor on the side of the defendant.(1)
Source: Appellate court holds that debt collector's use of Ohio attorney general's letterhead violated FDCPA.

See also: The Associated Press (via The Columbus Dispatch): Court faults Columbus debt collectors’ use of official DeWine letterhead.

For the ruling, see Gillie v. Law Office of Eric A. Jones, LLC, No. 14-3836 (6th Cir. May 8, 2015).

(1) From the court ruling:
  • The Attorney General intervened on behalf of Defendants, asserting that the alleged misrepresentation—consisting of sending debt-collection notices on the Attorney General’s letterhead—was not a misrepresentation at all and was, in fact, authorized by the Attorney General.

    ***

    Intimidation is at the heart of this case. There is no compelling reason for special counsel to use the OAG letterhead, other than to misrepresent their authority and place pressure on those individuals receiving the letters. [...] The Attorney General insists that any sense of urgency (i.e. intimidation) that is created by the letters is permissible because the State has special authority that a regular creditor does not. This putative authority is not cited in any brief.

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