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The Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff, P.C. (HLS) is a Connecticut-based law firm that specializes in third-party debt collection. HLS has received complaints alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), including misrepresentation and threatening to take actions that cannot legally be taken. If you have been contacted by The Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff, make sure you understand your rights before taking action.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff, P.C. was founded in 1959 and incorporated in 1977. The BBB established HLS’s profile page in 2001. HLS is listed as a collection agency and law firm. Buzzfile estimates HLS’s annual revenue at $15.4 million and the size of its headquarters staff at 100 employees, with an estimated 124 employees at all locations.
According to its website, The Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff “is dedicated to consumer legal collections throughout the six state New England region.” HLS “takes pride in its function within the credit community and has endeavored to blend the law with modern technology and traditional professional concerns.” HLS’s “client base includes representation of corporate leaders in banking, consumer credit, healthcare credit, utility service credit, retail credit, and student loan credit.”
HLS is a law firm that primarily provides its “client base with collections experience in the various jurisdictions where they are admitted to practice.” Each of HLS’s local offices is staffed with “litigation supervisors, paralegals, and legal assistants…trained and experienced in the different legal requirements in each state.”
In addition to its legal services, The Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff works directly with creditors. Their collections division employs “experienced full-time staff utilizing state-of-the-art call management and predictive dialer technology to maximize contact which means maximum recovery.” HLS’s high-tech “automated system also provides a wide range of reporting options at each step in the collection process.”
As for compliance, The Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff cites a policy of “legal compliance with provisions of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, provisions of the Bankruptcy Code, stringent state regulations, HIPAA, and GLB, as well as FTC and Attorney Generals consent decrees that may affect certain clients.” In addition, they cite an IT department proficient in maintaining electronic data interchange (EDI) and data security compliance. However, the HLS website does not provide links or references to consumer protection resources or enforcement agencies.
The BBB has closed 4 complaints against The Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff in the past three years, with 1 complaint closed in the past 12 months. Most of those complaints allege problems with billing and collection services. As of April 2015, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has closed 12 complaints against HLS. Justia lists at least 13 cases of civil litigation involving HLS.
Absolutely. Here are some Sample Cases against The Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff P.C
In September 2012, in United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, a judge issued a Memorandum of Decision and Order in a case alleging The Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff had violated several provisions of the FDCPA. In this case, the plaintiff had acquired consumer debt by using a Sears department store card issued by Citibank. After assuming a total balance of $1,181.69 in February 2003, the plaintiff entered a debt management program with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) of New England to pay it off. The plaintiff ultimately paid back the entire balance, beginning with monthly payments of $26.00 in June 2006, then monthly payments of $36.00 by March 2008 until the balance was paid. Over the course of her payment plan, the plaintiff paid a total of $1,484.59, “which was $302.90 more than her original balance.”
Subsequently, around June 2009, Midland Funding purchased the debt and hired HLS to collect it.
Beginning in June 2010, The Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff began sending letters to the plaintiff demanding a payment of $1,974.57, with no explanation for how HLS had arrived at the total. The letters did contain the required notice of the plaintiff’s right to dispute the debt, and in February 2012, the plaintiff wrote to HLS and explained that she had already paid the debt through CCCS, indicating that she had the “monthly statements from CCCS and Money Management showing the monthly payments being sent to Sears Roebuck and Co.” Regardless, HLS not only failed to provide validation of the delinquent debt, but also continued sending letters demanding payment. The first followed in late March 2010, indicating a balance of $1,974.57 and offering a settlement of 75% of the total balance; the second sent in early June 2010, listing a balance of $2,439.39, and offering another settlement.
In addition to the collection letters,The Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff also filed suit against the plaintiff, claiming she owed Midland Credit $1,974.57, plus interest and court costs. After filing the suit, HLS sent the plaintiff another collection letter demanding a current balance of $2,503.64, and again offering to settle the balance for a lesser amount. The letter made no explanation for the change in the balance or of the lawsuit. A final collection letter in March 2011 again demanded that the plaintiff pay $1,974.57, again offering a settlement at a lesser amount for payment in full, but also again neither explaining the change in amount nor mentioning the lawsuit. Because the lawsuit and the letters were apparently proceeding in a parallel path, the court held a case management conference in January 2011, at which time the plaintiff provided proof of her payment history. But as litigation continued anyway, the plaintiff hired an attorney.
The September 2012 hearing was held to make a determination about HLS’s request for dismissal. The plaintiff alleged that HLS’ conduct violated Section 1692g(b) of the FDCPA “by failing to cease collection efforts after… the plaintiff’s request for validation of the Account, and by failing to provide validation of the Account”; and Sections 1692f(1) and 1692e(2) “by misrepresenting that a debt was due, since it had been paid in full, and by deceptively changing the amounts it claimed were due by adding amounts that were not authorized by law or agreement.” HLS attempted to argue that they had not violated the law because the plaintiff’s dispute letter informing them that she had already paid the debt did not legally constitute a request for validation or dispute. HLS also attempted to argue that it was up to the plaintiff to prove that she didn’t owe the debt. In addition, HLS claimed that they were entitled to add interest, so the unexplained charges in the balance due were not a violation, and that the entire claim was barred by the one-year statute of limitations. The court dismissed all of The Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff’s arguments as unpersuasive and denied their motion to dismiss charges.
The Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff, P.C.
510 Tolland St.
PO Box 280245
East Hartford, CT 06128-0245
Telephone: (800) 288-9457
Understanding Your Debt Collection Rights
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The FDCPA regulates the behavior of collection agencies by prohibiting actions such as the use of abusive or threatening language; harassment; or the use of false or misleading information to collect a debt.
The FCRA regulates how collection agencies and creditors report delinquent debts to credit reporting agencies. Additional consumer protection laws include the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). The complaint above illustrates how these laws can be extremely effective tools to hold accountable collection agencies who fail to adhere to their provisions.
These laws also provide individuals with a means to seek monetary damages in court. For example, the FDCPA allows consumers who have been violated to recover damages of up to $1,000, plus attorney fees and court costs.
Seek legal assistance to find the relief you may be entitled to if you are having difficulty resolving disputes with a debt collection agency.
Your debt harassment checklist:
- You are receiving multiple calls per week from third party collection agencies
- You are receiving early morning or late night calls from debt collectors
- You are receiving calls at work from a debt collection agency
- Debt collectors are calling your friends, neighbors, or coworkers
- Collectors are threatening you with violence, a lawsuit, or arrest
- A debt collector attempts to collect more than you owe
- You are being threatened with negative credit reporting
- A debt collector attempts to intimidate you
- Criminal accusations are being made towards you
- Use of obscene language during an attempt to collect
- Automated robocalls are being made to your phone in an attempt to collect
If you’ve been harassed by debt collectors and even one of these has happened to you, we can help. We will fight for your rights.
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The Lemberg Law legal team is committed to holding debt collectors accountable, so complete our form for a FREE case evaluation, or call 844-685-9200 NOW.
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