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  4.  — Was American Collection Systems, Inc. Sued for Allegedly Committing Unlawful Debt Collection in Violation of the FDCPA?

Was American Collection Systems, Inc. Sued for Allegedly Committing Unlawful Debt Collection in Violation of the FDCPA?

by | Jul 14, 2021 | Firm News |

Yes. In the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in the Houston Division, a federal class action lawsuit was filed against American Collection Systems, Inc. (“American Collection Systems”), a debt collector. The plaintiff alleged that the company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq. (“FDCPA”), as well as the Texas Debt Collection Act, TX. Fin. Code § 392.307, et seq. (“TDCA”), which are both laws that aim to regulate the actions of debt collectors.

Any debt collector that has allegedly violated a consumer’s rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), can be sued by a consumer for statutory damages of up to $1,000; actual damages including, but not limited to, harm or loss that resulted from a debt collector’s actions; as well as the consumer’s attorney’s fees and costs.

The docket number for the case is Case No. 4:16-cv-03422.

The plaintiff alleged that she accrued a sum of debt resulting from personal medical expenses and that she received a letter from American Collection Systems regarding the collection of her debt. The plaintiff alleged that this letter stated that the unpaid balance of her debt would “accrue lawful 7% interest or contracted amount per year” and that given that American Collection System had used a disjunctive statement, the meaning of the sentence was unclear and consumers would be confused about the true interest rate of the debt. The plaintiff alleged that the phrasing of the statement could cause it to be interpreted in different – and possibly inaccurate – manners and that the statement itself was legally misleading.

Additionally, the plaintiff alleged that this letter that she received from American Collection Systems was the first communication that she had with the company regarding her debt. The plaintiff alleged that the letter included notices in it that the defendant claimed were the ones that it was required to give pursuant to the FDCPA. However, the plaintiff alleged that the notices included in the letter omitted the verification of debt language that is required to be in the first written communication from a debt collector pursuant to the FDCPA, and that in doing so, American Collection Systems made it seem as if there presently was a judgment against the plaintiff for the alleged debt when, to her knowledge, no such judgment existed. The plaintiff alleged that because key verification language was omitted from the notice, the least sophisticated consumer could be led to believe that American Collection Systems would not need to mail them verification of their debt(s) even if the consumer requested it, and that rather, a consumer would mistakenly equate seeing the term judgment with something that was already verified as used later in the notice that American Collection Systems sent to the plaintiff. The plaintiff alleged that the language could also cause some consumers to give up their right to dispute the debt because they could believe that a dispute would cause the company to obtain a judgment against them. Thus, the plaintiff alleged that the use of misleading language by American Collection Systems was a violation of the FDCPA.

The plaintiff also alleged that American Collection Systems did not have a surety bond that would authorize them to conduct business in Texas or that they did not file such bond with the Texas Secretary of State.

In the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in the Fort Lauderdale Division, another federal lawsuit was filed against American Collection Systems where the plaintiff alleged that the company had again violated the FDCPA. The docket number for this case is Case No. 0:10-cv-62174-JIC.

In this case, the plaintiff allegedly incurred a debt in regard to an auto loan that was transferred to American Collection Systems for collection. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant called his own phone numerous times (up to six times in a single day), as well as his mother’s phone multiple times, in order to attempt to collect his debt. The alleged calls to his mother’s phone is notable because the FDCPA states that debt collectors cannot communicate with third parties (such as anyone that is not the consumer; the creditor; an attorney of the consumer, the creditor, or the debt collector; or a consumer reporting agency, if permitted) about the collection of the debt, unless they were given prior consent to do so. Additionally, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant did not reveal itself to be a debt collector in any of their communications and that the defendant also did not send the plaintiff the required 30-day validation notice within the five-day period after the first communication was made. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s use of false representation, its failure of identification, and its failure to send a validation notice were considered to be violations of the FDCPA.

Another federal lawsuit was filed against American Collection Systems in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York for its alleged violation(s) of the FDCPA. The docket number for this case is Case No. 1:09-cv-00339-WMS.

The plaintiff alleged that he allegedly owed a tuition related debt to Erie Community College. The plaintiff alleged that he had enrolled at the school for the fall semester but had believed that his tuition would be covered by financial aid. However, the plaintiff alleged that before classes began, he was told by the school that he did not receive any financial aid. The plaintiff alleged that because of this he notified the school that he wanted to unenroll for the semester and that the school replied that he was not responsible for the tuition since he was not officially enrolled. The plaintiff then alleged that Erie Community College employed American Collection Systems to collect on his alleged tuition related debt even though he never went to any classes for that semester.

The plaintiff alleged that American Collection Systems, the defendant, called him on his phone and left him a voice message where they claimed to have been calling from Erie Community College’s “Finalization Department” and that they asked for the plaintiff to call them back. Additionally, the plaintiff alleged that in this message, the defendant mentioned that there was a complaint that was brought against the plaintiff and that they wanted to give the plaintiff a chance to discuss it. The plaintiff alleged that the “least sophisticated consumer” would believe that the defendant’s statements suggested that they had the intention to take legal action against the plaintiff when they did not have the intent or the authority to do so. The plaintiff also alleged that he was not provided with written notice of his debt within 5 days of its initial communication with him, and that due to the actions of the defendant, he suffered from negative emotions and emotional distress. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant violated the FDCPA by failing to disclose their identity as a debt collector, falsely representing themselves, failing to provide written notice of the plaintiff’s debt, and using language meant to abuse the plaintiff.

In the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in the Eastern Division, another federal class action lawsuit was filed against American Collection Systems for allegedly violating the FDCPA, as well as the Illinois Collection Agency Act. The docket number for this case is Case No. 1:10-cv-02631.

The plaintiff alleged that when attempting to collect on her alleged debt, American Collection Systems called her personal cell phone, and left her a voicemail in which a “Mr. Krau” indicated that he was from “ACS” and was calling about the plaintiff’s “personal business file,” and asked for the plaintiff to return the call. The plaintiff alleged that in this message, the defendant did not identify themselves beyond “ACS” and that they did not explicitly state that the call was being made for the purpose of collecting the plaintiff’s debt. Additionally, the plaintiff alleged that it was common practice for the defendant to not clearly identify the company or reveal themselves as debt collectors. The plaintiff alleged that she had to spend time to find out where the call came from and that she suffered damages as a result. The plaintiff alleged that American Collection Systems violated the FDCPA because they did not clearly identify themselves or disclose the debt collection purpose of the call and because they used false or misleading representation during the call.

An additional federal lawsuit was filed against American Collection Systems in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. The plaintiff alleged that American Collection Systems violated the FDCPA. The docket number for this case is 0:09-cv-01342-ADM-SRN.

In this case, the plaintiff allegedly incurred an auto lease related debt with Chrysler Financial for a vehicle that she leased from a dealership. The plaintiff alleged that she had arranged for her lease to be terminated and that both of the companies agreed to this termination. The plaintiff also alleged that they came to a consensus on a “buyout” amount for the vehicle and that the plaintiff would be freed from the lease. However, the plaintiff alleged that after this occurred, Chrysler Financial sent her a “Lease End Statement” in which they wanted her to pay additional charges. The plaintiff alleged that she disputed these new charges with the company but that they employed American Collection Systems, the defendant, in order to collect the debt. The plaintiff alleged that American Collection Systems sent her a debt collection letter for the total amount of the additional charges from the Chrysler Financial statement and that they started to make calls to her phone. The plaintiff then alleged that she sent the defendant a letter in which she requested for them to stop communicating with her on the telephone and in which she claimed that she had already resolved her debt with Chrysler Financial. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant then sent back a letter that included her original lease agreement and the “Lease End Statement.” The plaintiff also alleged that despite the letter that she sent to the defendant, American Collection Systems still made continued calls to her phone and left her multiple voicemail messages in which they did not disclose their identity as a debt collector and only referred to themselves as “ACS”; which is not their full name. The plaintiff alleged that the actions of the defendant constituted violations of the FDCPA and that these actions directly caused her to become emotionally distressed, anxious, and humiliated.

 

What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) is a federal statute enacted by the 95th United States Congress. The purpose of this statute is to encourage fair debt collection, to eliminate unlawful debt collection practices, and to provide legal protection for consumers against debt collectors. The types of debt covered by the FDCPA are consumer debts, including but not limited to credit card debt, student loans, auto loans, and mortgages.

The FDCPA prohibits certain behaviors during the debt collection process and pursuant to the statute there are a number of actions that a debt collector cannot engage in when attempting to collect a debt. For example, when speaking with a consumer, a debt collector cannot threaten them with harm or with actions that they cannot take, lie to them, swear or use foul language, or pretend that they are a government agency or a law enforcement agency, amongst other things. Additionally, there are restrictions as to when a debt collector is allowed to communicate with a consumer. For example, a debt collector cannot call an individual between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. and if they have already told them to stop calling, the debt collector must cease their calls to both their personal phone and their workplace. A debt collector also cannot call a consumer during time periods that they have indicated are inconvenient for them. Moreover, in most states, and unless a debt collector is a debt collection law firm, a debt collector cannot threaten to sue a consumer; as they do not have the present right to do so. In these cases, the right to sue remains with the original or current creditor.

If a debt collector has violated a consumer’s rights under the FDCPA, the consumer can sue them for damages. The consumer could be entitled to statutory damages of up to $1,000, as well as actual damages including, but not limited to harm or loss that resulted from a debt collector’s actions.