As a Texas oil and gas and real estate attorney, I have observed first hand how devasting this financial downturn has been for a number of my clients. Unfortunately, when our economy goes south, many people struggle to pay their bills, simply because there is not enough money to go around. With unpaid bills come debt collectors.
My guest blog today is written by Sergei Lemberg, a consumer attorney who specializes in fair debt law. I learned recently that Sergei had been involved with the Chrysler bankruptcy on behalf on consumers. In his words: "When Chrysler filed bankruptcy, the company didn't want to pay lemon law claims, and a group of lawyers and I wrote a letter to the US Trustee complaining that this isn't fair. ... I posted the letter on the LemonJustice blog, and the link ended up circulating like fire around the country, including the Auto Czar's office, the NYT Times, LA Times. Random chance, but the newspapers picked up the story, and the car maker finally caved". Way to go, Sergei!
How to Fight Collection Agencies’ Harassment
By Sergei Lemberg
If you’ve been on the receiving end of debt collection calls, you’ve likely been subject to collection agencies’ harassment. Bill collectors are notorious for disregarding your rights, as outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
What are those rights? Essentially, collection agencies don’t have the right to trample on your dignity. The law outlines whom they can contact, what they can say, and when they can call. If you feel like you’re being harassed, then you probably are. The question then becomes, how do you fight collection agencies’ harassment? There are basically three approaches you can take. First, you can pay off the debt. Of course, the reality is that, if you had the money to pay off the debt, you wouldn’t be a target for debt collection agencies. So, let’s take that one off the table. The second approach is a do-it-yourself approach. So, for example, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act says that an agency must stop contacting you if you write a cease and desist letter. You can write that letter and mail it yourself (but make sure to send it via certified mail), and theoretically the debt collection agency will get off your back. Unfortunately, bill collectors rarely play by the book, and a cease and desist letter often doesn’t work.
What’s the third approach? Engage the services of a consumer attorney who specializes in fair debt law. I know what you’re thinking. If you could afford an attorney, you could afford to pay the bill. What you may not realize is that fair debt attorneys will most likely take your case for free. That’s because the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act says that, if you’re the victim of collection agencies’ harassment, the bill collector has to pay your attorney fees. In other words, your attorney will get paid, but you don’t have to foot the bill. Best of all, once you have an attorney, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act says that all calls and correspondence must be routed through your attorney. That means that you’ll no longer have a knot in your stomach every time the phone rings, or that you’ll no longer dread what the mail might bring.