If you’ve ever been faced with financial obligations that you couldn’t honor in a timely manner, you’re likely familiar with debt collectors. Some of those interactions may have been so hostile and stressful that you declared bankruptcy or paid an amount you don’t agree with just to make the phone stop ringing.
Although your creditors have the right to turn your accounts over to third-party debt collectors when they become delinquent, these collectors must still follow certain rules and regulations. They cannot simply do ‘whatever it takes’ to make you pay a debt. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which was enacted in 1978 and is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you have rights and are entitled to protection from unfair, abusive, and deceptive practices.
The restrictions imposed on debt collectors by the FDCPA include:
- They may only call you between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. in your time zone.
- They cannot call you at work if you tell them that such contacts is not permitted by your employer.
- They must stop contacting you if you make that request in writing.
- They may only discuss the debt with you, your spouse, or your attorney.
- They may not harass you by using obscene language, threatening to harm or arrest you, or calling you excessively.
- They cannot lie to you when trying to collect a debt.
- They are not allowed to collect more money than you actually owe.
Despite these legal limitations, some debt collectors try to find a way around them. Account Control Technology, which was founded in 1990 and is headquartered in Woodland Hills, California, has 800 employees in call centers in California, Ohio, and Texas. A review of US District Court files retained by PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) indicate that Account Control Technology has frequently been a defendant in cases involving FDCPA violations.
Pamela and James Sills v. Account Control Technology
According to PACER**, Maryland resident Pamela Sills incurred a financial obligation in the approximate amount of $990.23 to Sallie Mae. When the account became delinquent, the creditor assigned the debt to Account Control Technology for collection.
In August 2012, Mrs. Sills and her husband received a letter from Account Control Technology (ACT) stating that Sallie Mae had authorized the agency to settle for $790.00. She immediately sent ACT a check in that amount to settle the debt, and confirmed that it was cashed on August 8.
The matter didn’t end there, however. ACT agents started calling the Sills at home to collect the outstanding $200.00. When Mrs. Sills insisted that the debt had been settled and requested no further contact, the collection agents claimed that they were still waiting for Sallie Mae to accept the settlement, even though the letter stated that Sallie Mae had authorized ACT to settle the debt. During several conversations, the debt collectors allegedly used hostile language and terminated the call when she asked to be transferred to a supervisor.
Mr. and Mrs. Sills hired an attorney, who initiated a lawsuit against the agency. The complaint accused ACT of the following violations:
- Engaging in behavior calculated to harass, oppress, and/or abuse a debtor
- Using false, deceptive, or misleading representation or methods to collect a debt
- Employing false and deceptive means to collect a debt
- Using unfair and unconscionable means to collect a debt
The matter was later settled.
If you get calls from 1-800-394-4228, Account Control Technology is trying to get in touch with you to discuss a debt you allegedly owe. If they refuse to validate the debt, become hostile with you, or threaten to have you arrested, you have several recourses under the FDCPA.
You can contact your state’s attorney general or the FTC, and even hire an attorney to take the debt collector to court. If you sue under the FDCPA and win, Account Control Technology must generally pay your attorney’s fees and $1,000 per violation. Remember that you have rights, and a skilled consumer attorney can help ensure that you are compensated when those rights are violated.
**Case taken from PACER (www.pacer.gov). File number is (Case 1:12-cv-02923-CCB, United States District Court, District of Maryland, Northern Division)
The content of this article serves only to provide information and should not be construed as legal advice. If you file a claim against Account Control Technology or any other third-party collection agency, you may not be entitled to any compensation.