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A debt collection company has been ordered to pay $4 million in penalties imposed by the Federal Trade Commission. The penalties relate to the company’s violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the FTC Act. Allegedly, the debt collection agency employed deceptive tactics to collect unnecessary fees and debts from United States consumers.

The FTC accused the debt collection agency of using methods that were both deceptive and false in order to collect over $1.3 million in unlawful transaction and convenience fees related to payments made by consumers via the telephone. Allegedly, the debt collection agency trained its employees to make consumers falsely believe that payments could not be made by way of U.S. mail and that telephone payment fees were mandatory. In some instances, the fees were charged without the knowledge or consent of consumers.

Allegedly, debt collectors employed by the defendant falsely claimed to be speaking on behalf of attorneys, falsely threatened lawsuits against non-paying consumers and used other deceptive methods to strong-arm consumers into providing personal information and/or paying them. According to the director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, it is against the law when debt collectors issue false threats, lie or trick consumers into paying debts and/or unauthorized fees like this.

The debt collection agency has now been penalized with a $4 million fine. In addition to the fine, the agency has been ordered to refrain from unlawful and untruthful practices. It has also been ordered to disclose information about fees truthfully, and it must detail steps that consumers can follow to avoid paying.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act governs the way debt collection agencies can attempt to recover debts owed by consumers in Florida and other parts of the nation. This act and other state and federal laws recognize that consumers with outstanding debts have certain rights under the law.

Debt collectors tend to rely on two presumptions when contacting consumers. First, that the individuals they harass are not familiar with collections laws and second, that those individuals will not consult with an attorney who is. Those who are being intimidated and harassed by threatening collections agents at home and at work can often seek legal protections in order to stop such unlawful behavior.

Source: ACA International, “FTC Imposes $4 Million Penalty Against Debt Collector,” June 25, 2014