On June 19, Maine Governor Janet T. Mills signed a new law, H.P 553 – L.D. 748, that provides relief for consumers suffering from “economic abuse.” Going into effect on September 19, 2019, the new law provides a set of procedures for debt collectors and credit reporting agencies to follow when consumers present evidence of “economic abuse.”
Economic abuse is defined as “… causing or attempting to cause an individual to be financially dependent by maintaining control over the individual’s financial resources, including, but not limited to:
- Unauthorized or coerced use of credit or property;
- Withholding access to money or credit cards;
- Forbidding attendance at school or employment;
- Stealing from or defrauding of money or assets;
- Exploiting the individual’s resources for personal gain of the defendant; or
- Withholding physical resources such as food, clothing, necessary medication or shelter.”
H.P. 553 – L.D. 748 mandates that debt collectors cease collecting a debt or any disputed portion thereof if the consumer provides the appropriate documentation that the debt or any disputed portion thereof is the result of economic abuse. Additionally, the law requires credit reporting agencies to reinvestigate debts after a consumer provides documentation that the debt or any portion thereof is the result of economic abuse. And if the investigation determines that the debt is the result of economic abuse, the credit reporting agency must remove any reference to the debt that is the result of such from the consumer’s credit report.
Debt collectors operating in Maine should be aware of this issue and consider creating policies and procedures to comply with this new law when confronted with such consumer claims.