One of the Largest Banks in the US Ordered to Pay $2 Million in Penalties for Debt Collection Abuse
In December, several district attorney's offices in California obtained a stipulated judgment for $2 million against against Capital One, one of the 10 largest banks in the United States by assets, for repeated and systemic violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and a similar California law, the Rosenthal Act.
According to a press release from the Office of the District Attorney in Riverside County, California, "Beginning in March 2015, Capital One, a national bank, made phone calls with unreasonably excessive frequency and persisted in calling wrong numbers in an effort to collect their debts." As part of the judgment Capital One will have to change its debt collection practices moving forward, including limiting the frequency of debt collection calls and ceasing communications with people who request not to be contacted.
This is a prominent case that highlights the potential power of the FDCPA in the hands of consumers and government agencies. The FDCPA puts strict limits on the conduct of debt collectors; specifically it prohibits debt collectors from placing repeated or continuous telephone calls or conversations with the intent to harass, oppress, or abuse the borrower. Under the law, there is a presumption that a debt collector has violated the FDCPA if it places a telephone call to a borrower about a particular debt 1) more than seven times within a seven-day period, or 2) within seven days after engaging in a telephone conversation with the borrower about a particular debt.
These are important limits to know, and if you feel like a debt collector might have violated them in communications with you, please reach out to an attorney. The FDCPA empowers borrowers to sue debt collectors that violate the law for up to $1,000 in damages plus the costs to bring the lawsuit. Perhaps just as importantly, hiring an attorney will get the harassing communications to stop.
You can read the entire statement from the Riverside District Attorney's office here, and you can find important information on frequently asked questions (FAQs) on debt collection compliance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau here.