The information in this report was taken from the FTC press release and may be viewed in its entirety at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2002/04/unitedrecovery.htm United Recovery Systems, Inc. (URS) has agreed to pay a $240,000 civil penalty as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission to resolve allegations that the company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
According to the FTC's complaint, on numerous occasions, in connection with the collection of debts in both English and Spanish, the company's debt collectors communicated with consumers at improper times or places, engaged in prohibited communications with third parties, harassed and abused consumers, and used deceptive practices to collect consumer accounts.
In addition to the civil penalty, the proposed consent decree to settle the FTC charges includes broad prohibitions on future FDCPA violations and would require URS to inform consumers in writing that they may stop the company from contacting them about the debt and may contact a special URS phone number or address should they have a complaint about the way URS is collecting the debt.
The settlement also includes a comprehensive consumer complaint and resolution program under which every consumer complaint about URS collection practices must be thoroughly investigated and responded to by the company.
According to the FTC's complaint detailing the charges, when attempting to collect debts in both English and Spanish, URS repeatedly violated the FDCPA by:discussing details of the consumers' alleged debts with third parties, such as the consumers' parents, children, employers and co-workers; communicating with consumers at times or places that the company knew or should have known to be inconvenient, including at the consumers' place of employment; using language the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse; falsely stating or implying that failure to pay the debt could result in arrest, imprisonment, or garnishment of wages; and threatening to take action - such as filing a collection suit against the consumer - when the company did not intend to take such action.
The proposed consent decree to settle the allegations, in addition to requiring the $240,000 civil penalty, would prohibit the company from violating any provisions of the FDCPA in the future. Further, the proposed settlement requires URS clearly and conspicuously to disclose to consumers it contacts in writing that they may stop the company from contacting them about the debt.
In addition, URS would be required to notify consumers that they may contact a special URS address or toll-free phone number if they have a complaint about the way URS is collecting the debt. To be clear and conspicuous, these disclosures must be made in Spanish when communicating with consumers in that language.The proposed consent decree also requires URS to investigate promptly all consumer complaints it receives, take corrective action where necessary, and document in writing the results of each investigation and corrective action taken.
Finally, the consent decree contains a number of reporting and record keeping requirements that will assist the FTC in monitoring compliance with the terms of the settlement. The Consent Decree was accepted and approved by the court and can also be viewed at the Web site address noted above.NOTE: This consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Consent decrees are subject to the court's approval and have the force of law when signed by the judge.