I received a collection letter from law firm "John E. Jones and Associates" in Georgia. The amount they claim I owe is wrong, so I do have to verify that.
This is on attorney letterhead, but it is not signed and states "At this time no lawyer at this firm has personally reviewed the particular circumstances of your account. However if you fail to contact this office, our client may consider additional remedies to recover the balance due."
Is it proper for this kind of letter to go out unsigned and unreviewed?
Thank you very much for your assistance.
Yes, although this isn't the standard debt collection language that debt collectors use. It doesn't mean anything other than what it says - they haven't reviewed the underlying documents so they don't know if the creditor is also entitled to interest, legal fees, etc.
Review the contract and statements at issue, and get the debt validated.
There are mixed oppinions throughout the country on the issue of whether or not the language, "at this time no lawyer at this firm has personally reviewed the particular circumstances of your account," is deceptive. I litigated this issue in CA and lost. However, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, in Lesher v. Mitchell N. Kay, recently upheld a decision that held this type of languag is deceptive.
I would be more concerned that the letter does not accurately reflect the amount of money you owe. One important section of the FDCPA is section 1692g, which deals with validating debts. Section 1692g states, “[w]ithin five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall…send the consumer a written notice containing” the following information: (1) the amount of the debt, (2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed, (3) a statement that the consumer has 30 days to dispute the debt, otherwise the debt will be assumed to be valid, (4) a statement about what the collector will produce if the consumer disputes the debt within 30 days, and (5) a statement that the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if it is different than the current creditor. In other words, the 1692g Notice Letter contains important information about the debt and about the consumer’s rights. Therefore, consumers should read this letter carefully.
If a consumer receives a 1692g Notice Letter from a debt collector, the consumer has 30 days to dispute the debt and to obtain additional information the debt from the collector. Therefore, consumers should always respond to 1692g Notice Letters in order to obtain complete and accurate information about the underlying debt. Furthermore, it is crucial to dispute the debt within the 30-day window, too, if the consumer does not owe the debt. Once a consumer requests validation of the debt or disputes the debt, the debtor collector must stop all collection activities until the debtor collector provides verification of the debt to the consumer. Therefore, the consumer will have some momentary relief from the telephone calls and the letters while the collector gathers and provides verification of the debt. More importantly, however, the debt collector will be forced the validate the debt before continuing with collection efforts.
In summary, consumers should carefully read the 1692g Notice Letter and exercise their the right to validation and right to dispute the debt. That way, consumers will be educated before determining how to attempt to resolve the debt at issue.
It is a collection letter, which may go out by the tens of thousands each week. This one sounds better than most I have seen.
The fact that it wasn't reviewed by an attorney would be important if it were from a mortgage company. No so from a debt collector.
Hope this perspective helps!
You do NOT need to verify anything. If you like, send one of the two sample letters 1.1 or 1.2 (see link below) to debt collectors from my web site, to make the debt collection agency law firm verify the debt. You may want to mention that you dispute the balance in their letter, though if it includes accrued interest and other legal charges to the debt, then that may explain the difference. The balance should be accurate, including accrued interest and other applicable charges permitted by this particular debt.
Robert Stempler (please see DISCLAIMER below)
It is a misleading and deceptive practice for a collection agency to threaten litigation or to imply that that an attorney has reviewed the file. See Rosenau v Unifund, 3rd Cr. 2008, 539 F.3d 218. The letter must be sent by a lawyer, and that lawyer must be licensed to practice law in the state where you reside, i.e., the state where the collection lawsuit will be filed. California has an additional statute prohibiting this practice.
It is also a violation for a debt collector to imply something which, although the letter contains a disclaimer, could lead the "least sophisticated consumer" to believe that the debt collector is going to do something that it will not or cannot do.
It is also a violation of the FDCPA to threaten to take an action which the collection agency does not intend to do.
I suggest that you consult a lawyer about filing an FDCPA action against the collection agency.
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