Is Phillips & Cohen Associates calling you? Here's what you need to know.
In September 1977 Congress enacted the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, to protect consumers from the rampant abuses that third-party collection agencies were directing toward those who owe a debt.
The FDCPA controls what debt collectors may do and say while collecting or trying to collect a debt, and provides consumers with certain rights, primarily the right to dispute the debt and tell collectors to stop contacting them.
Your Rights Under the FDCPA
Below is an overview of actions and tactics that are illegal when practiced by debt collectors seeking to obtain debt payments.
- Calling at inconvenient times, primarily before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. in the consumer’s time zone
- Contacting someone at work when they know, or should know, that such calls are prohibited by the employer
- Using obscene and profane language
- Threatening actions they have no intention of taking or cannot legally take
- Directly contacting someone who has hired an attorney to represent them regarding the debt
- Failing or refusing to verify the debt
- Ignoring a cease communications request
Although the FDCPA mandates a penalty of $1,000 per proven violation, some debt collectors persist in taking all steps they believe to be necessary to collect a debt.
Formed in 1997, Phillips & Cohen Associates is a large debt collection agency with an international scope. In addition to four regional American offices in Wilmington, Delaware, Westampton, New Jersey, Plantation, Florida, and Colorado Springs, Colorado, Phillips & Cohen Associates has a Canadian office (Pointe-Claire, Quebec) and another one in Manchester, UK. A review of civil litigation records archived by PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) turns up several instances of this company being sued for improper debt collection practices.
Alleged FDCPA Violations
A California resident incurred a debt to Capital One Bank that was transferred to Phillips & Cohen Associates for collection. They sent her a collection letter, which was followed up by the following voice message on March 13, 2007:
Uh, hello. This is a message for [name]. Uh, [name], my name is Justin Williams. I have just been forwarded pending paperwork for actions being filed that requires your immediate attention. Now [name], it’s imperative that you, or your attorney if you have one retained, make sure to take this matter seriously and take five minutes out of your day to call in and become knowledgeable and prepared....
Distressed, she retained an attorney and drew up a complaint accusing Phillips & Cohen Associates of the following FDCPA violations:
- Failing to disclose the company’s identity and the nature of its business (15 U.S.C. § 1692d(6))
- Misrepresenting the character or legal status of the alleged debt (15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2)(a))
- Falsely representing or implying that a lawsuit had been, was about to be, or would be instituted against her when Phillips & Cohen Associates did not intend to actually file such a lawsuit (15 U.S.C. § 1692e(5))
- Leaving a communication was designed to instill a false sense of urgency in the listener (15 U.S.C. §§ 1692e and 1692e(10))
- Representing threats of a pending or imminent lawsuit with the intent to annoy, harass and abuse (15 U.S.C. §§ 1692d, 1692e, and 1692e(10))
- Failing to disclose that the communication was from a debt collector (15 U.S.C. § 1692e(11))
The matter was later dismissed.
If your caller ID shows the numbers 1-888-608-1766, 1-609-518-9000 or 1-954-660-8400, be aware that the caller is from Phillips & Cohen Associates. If they leave a message that does not disclose their correct identity or purpose and threaten you with a lawsuit that never transpires, see a consumer attorney. The FDCPA prohibits such activities, and you could win damages of $1000 for every FDCPA violation, as well as attorney’s fees and court costs. When debt collectors go too far, the law is there to help you defend your rights.
*Case taken from PACER (www.pacer.gov). File number is 5:08-cv-00926-JW from United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Jose Division
Disclaimer: The content of this article serves only to provide information and should not be constructed as legal advice. If you file a claim against Phillips & Cohen Associates, or any other third-party collection agency, you may not be entitled to any compensation.