Federal courts in New York and Georgia have granted the Federal Trade Commission’s request to temporarily stop certain debt collection practices that the FTC alleges violate federal law. Specifically, the FTC alleges that the unlawful and scandalous activity includes threatening and deceiving consumers through text messages, emails, and certain types of phone calls.
On May 11, the FTC filed three complaints against several debt collectors and certain corporate officers:
- The FTC filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York against Unified Global Group, LLC; ARM WHY, LLC; Audubon Financial Bureau LLC; Domenici D’Angelo; and Anthony Coppola in Federal Trade Commission v. Unified Global Group, LLC, et al, Case No. 1:15-cv-422-EAW (W.D.N.Y.).
- The FTC filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York against Premier Debt Acquisitions LLC; Prizm Debt Solutions LLC; Samuel Sole and Associates, LLC; Charles Glander; and Jacob E. Kirbis in Federal Trade Commission v. Premier Debt Acquisitions LLC, el al, Case No. 1:15-cv-421-FPG (W.D.N.Y.).
- The FTC filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the North District of Georgia against The Primary Group Inc., Gail Daniels, June Fleming in Federal Trade Commission v. The Primary Group Inc., et al, Case No 1:15-cv-1645 (N.D.G.A.).
While the complaints in the three actions vary with respect to specific allegations against each defendant, all consistently allege that certain debt collection practices are unlawful, including:
- Sending text messages that contain false statements, such as “Your payment was declined”;
- Sending text messages that suggest that the consumer-debtor would be sued (or have their possessions seized) if the consumer-debtor fails to make certain payments immediately;
- Impersonating state or law enforcement officials;
- Sending threatening emails; and
- Robo-calls containing false information.
On this issue, Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection stated, “Legitimate debt collectors know the rules … [t]hey can’t harass or lie to you, whether they send a text, email, or call you.”
It can be concluded that the FTC remains concerned about the use of text messages, emails, and phone calls for debt collection purposes that contain statements that could be rendered as threatening or misleading. The FTC continues to flex its regulatory muscle against such activities by debt collectors.