The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently fined DriveTime Automotive Group, Inc. $8 million for harming customers for making harassing debt collection calls and providing inaccurate credit information to credit reporting agencies. Such a large fine underscores the importance of the consumer protection laws such as the FDCPA, the FCCPA for Florida consumers and the TCPA for cell phone calls.
These consumer statutes basically allow private attorneys to sue creditors on behalf of their clients and obtain both statutory damages and attorney’s fees. Without that, no one would be able to financially afford to challenge creditor violations.
So what were the most common violations by DriveTime that the CFPB found?
Harassing borrower’s references was #1. The CFPB found that many borrowers and references requested the creditor to make no further calls, but the calls did not stop. Some references complained collectors called them for months after they requested the company stop.
#2 Making excessive, repeated calls to wrong numbers. The creditor used third party databases to find new phone numbers; however, information in these databases often were incorrect. Again, the third parties would ask the creditor to stop calling, informing the creditor that they had the wrong number and requesting the calls to stop. In some instances, the CFPB found the wrong number calls would continue more than a year after the request for the calls to stop.
# 3 Harassing borrowers at work. The CFPB alleged that the creditor’s management encouraged their debt collectors to call the consumer at work. Many consumers requested calls at work to cease, but the calls continued anyway.
The next group of violations involved the creditor providing inaccurate information to credit reporting agencies, and failure to handle credit information disputes correctly and last, failing to instill reasonable procedures to ensure the accuracy of consumers’ credit information.
This $8 million settlement with the nation’s largest “buy-here, pay-here” auto dealer, represents a clear warning to creditors from federal regulators that compliance with both the FCRA and certain minimum debt collection standards is a top federal priority. As a result, any complacency companies may have had about credit reporting and debt collection compliance is now history. Creditors who continue to violate these consumer laws will no longer be able to skirt the laws.
For more information on what you can do about harassing debt collector calls, particularly for those consumers located in Florida, please see Christie D. Arkovich, P.A.