March 8, 2014
Debt Collector Harassment Can Take on Many Forms
Scranton, PA: A New York man who claims to have been harassed and later sued over a debt to a credit card agency that had long been settled filed a debt collector lawsuit of his own, alleging that co-defendant NCO Group Inc. (NCO) and various legal firms in its employ had no right to harass him for a debt he no longer owed.
Debt Collector Harassment Can Take on Many FormsPlaintiff James LaCourte, in his New York State bill collector lawsuit, alleges that he was repeatedly harassed over a $4,128 balance on his American Express card that no longer existed. It was not identified whether LaCourte had paid the balance off in full, or in part, or whether arrangements were made to satisfy both parties. But what has been determined is that LaCourte had agreed to terms with American Express to the satisfaction of both parties long before the harassment started, and the debt was considered repaid.
According to court documents, US District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff dismissed the bulk of harassing calls and communications alleged by the plaintiff, given that all but one call occurred outside of the one-year limitation window mandated by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The incidents of debt collector harassment were found to have occurred in 2010 and 2011. LaCourte filed his bill collector lawsuit in December 2012. However, one isolated call occurred in 2012, legitimizing the plaintiff’s complaint. Thus, according to Rakoff, the lawsuit can move forward.
LaCourte is seeking class-action status.
According to court documents, NCO employs a number of law firms under contract to go after debtors who allegedly owe money to various accounts. The complaint alleges that NCO prohibits its attorneys under contract from contacting the individuals against whom they are litigating. They are also prohibited by NCO from verifying the existence and status of debts through the request of documents. Thus, according to LaCourte’s debt collector lawsuit, NCO directs its attorneys to harass plaintiffs without verification of debt status.
LaCourte, in his complaint, describes the tactic as a “factory approach” to debt collection that leads to unnecessary bill collector harassment. The case is LaCourte v. JPMorgan Chase & Co. et al, case number 1:12cv09453, in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Meanwhile, two other lawsuits have been filed in Pennsylvania over promotional text messages and e-mails that are sent to consumers without their consent. According to The Times-Tribune (01/10/14) of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Defendants are Bon-Ton Stores Inc. and DSW Inc., a shoe retailer. Plaintiffs Gerald Reviello (suing Bon-Ton) and Christina Prukala, who is suing DSW, both claim in identical lawsuits that defendants Bon-Ton and DSW did not have permission to undertake the unwanted solicitations, and in so doing violated state and federal laws.
Text messages, for example, carry a cost regardless of whether they are sent or received. Most consumers maintain usage plans that have a monthly cap. Go over that cap, and you begin to incur additional charges. The plaintiffs allege that unwanted and needless text message solicitations to their cell phones cost them needlessly.
The lawsuit, which also names three unidentified corporations, is seeking class-action status. Were class-action status to be granted, attorneys for the plaintiffs surmise there could be as many as hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania residents who might qualify as co-plaintiffs. The lawsuits were filed in Lackawanna County.
The cases are:
Prukala v. DSW Inc. et al, Case No: 3:2014cv00154, filed January 29, 2014 at Pennsylvania Middle District Court; and Reviello v. The Bon-Ton Department Stores, Inc. et al, Case No: 3:2014cv00193, filed February 4, 2014 at Pennsylvania Middle District Court.
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