Lemberg & Associates issued the following press release today:
OCTOBER 17, 2013 – STAMFORD, CT – Fair debt attorney Sergei Lemberg (www.StopCollector.com) has turned the tables on a debt collector who allegedly embarrassed consumers by using mailing envelopes that depicted a cartoon hand holding a consumer by the ankles and shaking money out of his pockets. Lemberg said, “Many debt collection agencies routinely violate the law, but this case was especially egregious. Such tactics are nothing more than an attempt to humiliate and mock consumers who are having a difficult time making ends meet.”
With an eye toward empowering consumers and making them aware of their right to sue and recover up to $1,000 from debt collectors who violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Lemberg published his own version of the cartoon. “In our version, we’re holding debt collectors by the ankles and shaking money into the hands of harassed consumers,” he said. “It’s imperative for people to know that they don’t have to put up with abuse. Instead, they can get the harassment to stop and recover money from debt collectors who violate the law.”
The offensive debt collection cartoon came to light when the Federal Trade Commission announced a $1 million settlement with National Attorney Collection Services, Inc. and National Attorney Services LLC for alleged violations of the FDCPA and the FTC Act. Lemberg applauded the FTC, saying, “The debt collection industry needs to know that it will be held accountable for bad behavior.”
A number of debt collection tactics are prohibited by the FDCPA, including calling repeatedly, talking to third parties about a debt, making threats, and making misleading or deceptive statements. Lemberg, who was named the “most active” consumer attorney of 2012 by debt collection industry insider WebRecon LLC, said, “I’ve seen too many clients who have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous debt collectors. Folks need to learn about their rights under the FDCPA and fight back when their rights have been violated.”
Saying that the Federal Trade Commission does an outstanding job prosecuting the worst offenders, Lemberg concluded, “Unfortunately, obtaining redress for individual consumers is beyond the scope of the agency’s mission. That’s why it’s important for consumer attorneys to bridge the gap and represent everyday people whose rights are being violated.”
The CBS affiliate in San Francisco aired the following story regarding the new FCC rules pertaining to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The story includes an interview with Sergei Lemberg from Lemberg & Associates:
Lemberg & Associates issued the following press release today:
TCPA Attorney Sergei Lemberg Calls New FCC Telephone Consumer Protection Act Rules a Victory for Consumers
OCTOBER 16, 2013 – STAMFORD, CT – Consumer attorney Sergei Lemberg (www.SueSpamTexters.com, www.do-not-call-complaints.com) welcomes today’s implementation of the Federal Communication Commission’s new commercial text messaging and telemarketing rules, calling the more stringent requirements “a victory for consumers.” According to Lemberg, “Folks are being peppered with annoying text messages and robocalls, and need a more effective way to fight back.”
The FCC’s new rules pertain to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. Starting today, companies are prohibited from calling or texting cell phones using an “automated telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice” without first obtaining the “prior express written consent of the called party.” According to Lemberg, “These new rules represent a seismic shift in consumer privacy protections, and are certain to change the way many companies do business.”
Under the new FCC rules, businesses that engage in robocalling or texting cell phones bear the burden of proving that the consumer gave his or her consent – in writing – to receive such communication. “Starting today, companies must clearly disclose that, by checking a box online or signing on the dotted line, a consumer is agreeing to receive calls and texts on his or her cell phone,” said Lemberg. “To stay in compliance with the TCPA, businesses can no longer simply mine their contact or customer lists; they must go back and ask consumers for permission to robocall or text them.”
The consequences to companies who violate the new provisions remain the same. “Under the TCPA, consumers are entitled to sue companies and recover $500 per call or text, or triple that if a company ‘knowingly and willfully’ violated the law,” said Lemberg. He noted that a crucial element of consumer statutes is what’s known as a fee-shifting provision. “When Congress enacted the TCPA, it understood that people don’t have the financial resources to hire lawyers. That’s why consumers who sue and prevail in TCPA cases are entitled to have their court costs and legal fees paid by the losing side,” concluded Lemberg. “This levels the playing field for consumers who go up against big businesses.”
Are heart-healthy soups as good for you as they claim to be? That’s the question being decided in a class action lawsuit against Campbell Soup Company and the American Heart Association. According to a report on Good Morning America, the suit alleges that the AHA’s heart check label on Healthy Request soups doesn’t align with the AHA’s own standards. The suit alleges violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, unjust enrichment, and breach of express warranty. Here is a video of the GMA report:
Lemberg & Associates issued the following press release in response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s steps in protecting consumers from debt collection abuse:
Fair debt attorney Sergei Lemberg (www.stopcollector.com) applauded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for putting debt collection agencies on notice, providing consumers with debt collection action letters, and expanding its scope of consumer complaints to include grievances related to debt collection. “This is a victory for consumers who don’t know where to turn when they are victimized by abusive debt collectors,” said Lemberg. “It should also be a wake-up call to debt collection agencies that there is a new sheriff in town.”
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was created under the Dodd-Frank Act, issued two bulletins on July 10 that outlined the responsibilities of third-party debt collectors to not only abide by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), but for both first- and third-party collectors to follow the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act that prohibit unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices (UDAAPs). According to Lemberg, who was named the “most active” consumer attorney of 2012 by debt collection industry insider WebRecon LLC, “The CFPB broke new ground by making it clear that Dodd-Frank’s prohibition against UDAAPs extends to original creditors, and not simply the third-party debt collectors covered by the FDCPA.”
Lemberg, who has been educating consumers about their rights under the FDCPA via his firm’s website, StopCollector.com, and his YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/StopCollector), was equally enthusiastic about the CFPB’s new “Action Letter” templates that consumers can use when dealing with debt collectors. “Our firm receives a tremendous number of inquiries from consumers who don’t understand how to dispute a debt, how to get a debt collector to stop calling them, or even how to get more information about a debt they’re not sure they owe,” Lemberg said. “These templates help consumers communicate with debt collection agencies, and also provide a paper trail should a consumer decide to sue a debt collection agency for violations of the FDCPA.”
Against the backdrop of the Federal Trade Commission’s July 9 announcement that it had garnered the largest civil penalty ever ($3.2 million) against a third-party debt collector, Lemberg reserved his most emphatic praise for the CFPB’s acceptance of consumers’ debt collection complaints. Beginning July 10, the CFPB expanded the types of consumer complaints it accepted to include those about debt collection agencies. According to Lemberg, “The Federal Trade Commission has always accepted debt collection complaints, but only for the purpose of undertaking enforcement actions and reporting the complaints to Congress. The CFPB goes several steps further, in that it asks the companies to respond to the complaints and expects the complaints to be closed within 60 days.”
Lemberg concluded, “This is a red-letter day for consumers. The CFPB is sure to become a dogged regulator of the debt collection industry, and will curb some of the most egregious abuses.”
On behalf of our client, in January Lemberg & Associates filed a complaint in U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin, against Verizon Wireless. Our client alleged that he had an existing business relationship with Verizon Wireless, but that Verizon Wireless used robocalls to call his cell phone. During his initial conversation with Verizon Wireless, our client told them he didn’t want to be contacted via robocalls and instructed Verizon Wireless to only communicate with him through the U.S. mail. Nevertheless, Verizon Wireless continued calling four or five times per day, and made a total of 393 robocalls to our client’s cell phone. During one call, Verizon Wireless told our client that they could not remove his number and were unable to stop calling him.
The lawsuit charged Verizon Wireless with violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by using an automatic telephone dialing system and/or using a prerecorded or artificial message on a cell phone; by calling despite our client having revoked his consent to be contacted on his cell phone; and by calling for reasons other than emergency purposes.
Verizon Wireless filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that our client had failed to state a claim under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Verizon’s argument was twofold: either once consumers give their consent to be robocalled, they can never revoke that consent; or if consumers can revoke their consent, they must do so in writing.
The District Court judge denied Verizon’s motion to dismiss the case, writing, “Consumers can revoke their consent to receive autodialer calls under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and may do so orally.”
This is a resounding victory for consumers who are hounded by robocalls, and we are pleased that the case will move forward.
On behalf of Jason Zimmerman and other consumers, Lemberg & Associates (www.stopcollector.com) has won a $350,000 class action award against debt collection agency Portfolio Recovery Associates for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This is the largest reported judgment in a Fair Debt Collection class action case. According to Sergei Lemberg, who was labeled the “most active consumer attorney” of 2012 by debt collection industry insider WebRecon LLC, “We are gratified that the judge saw it fit to impose a significant, meaningful penalty for PRA’s intentional violations of the FDCPA.”
The court ruled that Portfolio Recovery Associates violated the FDCPA by sending 990 consumers debt collection correspondence that simulated legal process. The package consisted of a letter plus a set of legal-looking documents, such as a draft Summons and Complaints. According to Lemberg, “The FDCPA prohibits dissemination of fake legal papers on its face. The court rightfully labeled Portfolio Recovery Associates’ behavior ‘unscrupulous.’”
Portfolio Recovery’s unscrupulous behavior was just one of the factors the court used in determining the $350,000 award. According to Lemberg, “We were pleased that the judge noted that Portfolio Recovery’s FDCPA violations were ‘intentional’ and ‘egregious,’ and that a sizeable award was appropriate.” Indeed, the judge wrote, “The sanction imposed must be sufficient to deter PRA from engaging in abusive practices in the future.”
The court determined that each class member who returned the appropriate claim form would receive $500, that the lead plaintiff, Mr. Zimmerman, would receive $1,500, and that any remaining monies would be awarded “to a non-profit organization working to curb abusive debt collection practices or to increase consumer awareness of such practices.”
Lemberg concluded, “It’s fitting that a portion of the award will go to consumer advocacy organizations. The court’s decision should a clear message to debt collectors that they will be held accountable when they engage in shady practices.”
This release references Zimmerman v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC (U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, 09 Civ. 4602 (PGG)).
As reported in the Patriot-Ledger, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that cashiers can’t ask consumers for their ZIP codes when customers make credit card purchases. The class action lawsuit against Michaels craft store chain charged that Michaels violated the Commonwealth’s consumer protection laws, and that asking for personal information led to the retailer sending unsolicited phone calls and mailings. While Michaels argued that the law was designed to prevent identity theft, the court ruled that the legislative intent was to prevent sellers from sending consumers unwanted solicitations. Although the law doesn’t specifically mention ZIP codes, the court ruled that ZIP codes are personal information.
The New York Post published an article about a class action lawsuit Lemberg & Associates filed on behalf of a client in a spam texting case. Alex Shiyan received several text messages from the Lucille Roberts health club – a women-only club. The suit alleges the Lucille Roberts violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by using an automated telephone dialing system to text him without his consent.
A report and recommendation from a magistrate judge means that Butto and Houser v. Collecto, Inc. (U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, Case No. 2:10-cv-02906(ADS)(AKT)) is one step closer to receiving class certification. Lemberg & Associates is representing Victoria Butto, who are suing Collecto, Inc. (doing business as EOS/CCA) for unlawful and predatory debt collection practices. The suit alleges that Verizon Wireless turned over Ms. Butto’s debt to Collecto for collection. Collecto sent her a debt collection letter that added collection fees to the amount owed. Collecto had made arrangements with Verizon that they would receive their payments when Collecto had successfully collected on the debts. If Collecto didn’t collect on the debt, they weren’t entitled to any fees. Because no monies had been recovered at the time Collecto sent the letter, it was not entitled to its collection fees. The suit alleges that Collecto therefore misled Ms. Butto by creating a false impression that they incurred collection fees and owed that money, in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The Report and Recommendation filed by the court recommended that the presiding judge grand class certification to the following: New York consumers who were sent a collection letter by Collecto, Inc. DBA EOS/CCA for a Verizon Wireless account, which included a collection fee for Verizon Wireless service that hadn’t yet been incurred when the letter was sent.