On September 20, 1977, the US Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, which amended the Consumer Credit Protection Act. It regulates the methods and language that debt collectors are allowed to use when communicating with debtors, and grants debtors the right to take action against collection agencies that act in a manner prohibited by federal law.
As a debtor your rights include:
- The right to sue debt collectors who violate FDCPA standards when dealing with you
- The right to receive information about the debt within five days of being contacted about it
- The right to withhold information about the debt from those not authorized to know about it
- The right to request debt collectors to communicate only in writing or cease communications altogether
- The right to have an attorney represent you in a debt collection case
Alleged Violations against Mercantile Adjustment Bureau LLC*
Creditors Interchange was acquired by Mercantile Adjustment Bureau LLC, which is headquartered in Williamsville, NY, and has a Rochester office. The acquisition increased Mercantile’s employee count to over 500. According to the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system, the company has been sued many times for alleged FDCPA violations. The consumer complaints websites also refer to alleged abuses committed by Mercantile representatives.
Battino v. Mercantile Adjustment Bureau LLC et al
In November 2009 consumer Louis Battino was contacted by an individual who identified himself as ‘Alex James’ and said he was calling about an HSBC credit card. Mr. Battino owed a credit card debt to HSBC Bank, but Mr. James did not identify himself as a debt collector trying to collect a debt. When asked if he was indeed calling on behalf of a collection agency, he replied, “No sir, this is way past that, this is in litigation.”
Mr. James, who was actually an employee of Mercantile Adjustment Bureau, told Mr. Battino that the only way to avoid a wage garnishment was to agree to a payment plan right then. When Mr. Battino said he could not afford to pay, James said that he had looked at the former’s checking account and that Mr. Battino should be able to pay. During another conversation that month, Mr. Battino asked ‘Alex James’ who he worked for, and James refused to answer. Later on, there was a series of hang-up calls originating from Mr. James’ phone number, all of which he denied making when confronted.
Mr. Battino’s attorney stated that Mercantile Adjustment Bureau allegedly violated the FDCPA in the following manner:
- Failing to provide the legally required ‘mini-Miranda’ warning that Alex James was a debt collector attempting to collect a debt
- Denying that James was a debt collector
- Stating to Mr. Battino that the matter was in litigation, which was not true
- Insisting that the only way to avoid a wage garnishment was to immediately sign up for a payment plan
- Contacting Mr. Battino by phone and hanging up as soon as he answered
The matter was later resolved.
What to do if you get ‘the call’
The phone number for Mercantile Adjustment Bureau is 1-716-929-8200. There is also a toll-free number of 1-800-480-7094. If you get a call from this number, be aware that the company is a collection agency attempting to collect money you allegedly owe.
When you speak to the agent, request verification of the debt: this will legally require them to provide proof that they own collection rights on your alleged debt. If they are unable or refuse to do this and continue to call even after you request that they stop, retain an attorney with experience in litigating FDCPA matters. If Mercantile Adjustment Bureau representatives keeping contacting you instead of your attorney, consider suing them. You may be compensated up to $1000 per violation, plus attorney’s fees and court costs.
You have the right to be free of harassment even if you do owe money, and a skilled attorney can both protect your rights and help you take the debt collector to court for illegal collection tactics. If you win, you may be compensated up to $1000 for every FDCPA violation the agency has committed.
*Case taken from PACER (www.pacer.gov). File number is 1:10-cv-00090-WMS-HBS, from United States District Court, Western District of New York.
Disclaimer: The content of this article serves only to provide information and should not be construed as legal advice. If you file a claim against Mercantile Adjustment Bureau LLC or any other third-party collection agency, you may not be entitled to any compensation.