Cordray responded that new servicing guidelines effective in January 2014 should cover a lot of these issues and the CFPB will be monitoring servicers to ensure compliance.  I will be even more aggressive in ensuring servicer compliance for individual Maine homeowners who retain our office to assist with loan modifications and foreclosure defense.  Failure of a servicer to comply with the new servicing guidelines could be a violation of the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act.

We also discussed debt collection efforts in Maine and how many debt collectors file claims in small claims courts with little or no proof that they own or have the authority to collect on the debt.  Many collection firms play by the rules and treat consumers fairly, but those that do not can cause long term harm to consumers. Banks and other creditors may collect their own debt. They also may hire a debt collector or sell the debt to third parties. Those third-party debt buyers may collect the debt themselves or sell it again.

Many times lawsuits are brought in the name of an entity other than the one who provided the credit card.  For example a Home Depot credit card debt might be brought by Midland Funding.  Midland Funding may not have any information regarding the exact amount due, does not have a copy of the original contract the borrower signed, and many times does not have proof of their authority to collect on the debt.  Debt collectors are getting default judgments for borrowers who do not show up in court.  If this happens, a lien could be put on the borrowers home or the debt collector could seek to garnish wages to satisfy the judgment.  If a lien is put on the home, homeowners will have a very hard time getting a permanent loan modification or refinancing their current loan.  What may seem like a small debt or lawsuit can have long term effects on Maine consumers.

Richard Cordray announced that the CFPB will hold all companies under Bureau jurisdiction accountable for unlawful conduct in collecting a consumer’s debts. The CFPB has published action letters on their website for consumers to use in communicating with debt collectors and is now accepting debt collection complaints.

The Action Letters can be found at:

http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/debtcollection/

The letters address:

  • Needing more information on the debt

  • Wanting to dispute the debt and for the debt collector to prove responsibility or stop communication

  • Wanting to restrict how and when a debt collector can contact you

  • Letting the debt collector know you have hired a lawyer

  • Wanting the debt collector to stop any and all contact


To submit a debt collection complaint, consumers can:

  • Go online at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint

  • Call the toll-free phone number at -(855)-411-CFPB (2372)or TTY/TDD phone number (855) 729-CFPB (855) 729-CFPB FREE   (2372)

  • Fax the CFPB at (855)-237-2392 (855)-237-2392 FREE   or

  • Mail a letter to: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, P.O. Box 4503, Iowa City, Iowa 52244


A factsheet about debt collection is available at:

http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201307_cfpb_factsheet_debt-collection.pdf

Other helpful information can be found at:

The bulletin on unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201307_cfpb_bulletin_unfair-deceptive-abusive-practices.pdf

The bulletin on debt collectors discussing consumers’ credit is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201307_cfpb_bulletin_collections-consumer-credit.pdf

“These bulletins make clear that it doesn’t matter who is collecting the debt — unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices are illegal,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray at a field hearing in Portland, Maine. “Consumers need options to help them secure fair and respectful treatment from those debt collectors that fail to abide by the law. They can protect themselves by using our action letters to communicate with debt collectors and by submitting a complaint to us if they believe they are harmed by illegal conduct.”

According to the CRPB’s first bulletin the following practices, among others, may be illegal:

  • Threatening action that the debt collector does not have the authority to pursue. Debt collectors and creditors should not make false threats of lawsuits, arrest, prosecution, or imprisonment for non-payment of debt.

  • Falsely representing the character, amount, or legal status of the debt. Debt collectors and creditors should not falsely represent who owns the debt, the amount of debt that is owed, or the debt’s legal status.

  • Misrepresenting that a consumer’s debt would be waived or forgiven. Debt collectors and creditors should not misrepresent that a debt would be waived or forgiven if a consumer accepted a settlement offer when the company is not, in fact, forgiving or waiving the debt.

  • Failing to properly post payments or credit to a consumer’s account with payments. Debt collectors and creditors should not fail to properly post payments or credit to a consumer’s account and then charge late fees to that customer if the customer paid on time.

If a debt collector is doing any of these things to you, please fill out a complaint with the CFPB in addition to contacting our office for immediate assistance.  To view Andrea Bopp Stark's questions and comments click here.