Collection Company Pays Record $2.8 Million Fine to FTC
The FTC, which pursued West Asset Management as part of its ongoing campaign to protect consumers struggling to make ends meet, accused the debt collection company of violating the FTC Act and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act through false, deceptive and unfair debt collection practices.West Asset Management, whose website describes itself as "one of the nation's leading accounts receivable management companies, focused on performance and brand protection for our clients," employs 1,500 debt collectors in 13 states.
The FTC says the company has collected on more than 24 million accounts on behalf of clients in the healthcare, telecommunications, consumer credit, and government service industries, while generating thousands of complaints from consumers.
According to the FTC's complaint, debt collectors working for West Asset Management violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by repeatedly contacting consumers on a daily basis, regularly calling wrong numbers and often subjecting people to rude and abusive treatment.
The FTC also accused the company of withdrawing from consumers' bank accounts and charging their credit cards without authorization. West Asset Management debt collectors also made false threats to consumers, claiming they'd be sued, arrested or have their property seized for nonpayment of their debt.
West Asset Management, the FTC charged, also violated the law by disclosing consumer debt to third parties and ignoring written requests to stop calling them. In addition, the company falsely told consumers partial payments would be accepted as full settlement and negative information would remain on their credit reports until debts were paid.
In addition to the $2.8 penalty, the settlement permanently bans West Asset Management from using false, deceptive or unfair debt collection tactics, including:
- Claiming to be a law firm or that its collectors are attorneys
- Falsely threatening debtors with arrest or property seizure for nonpayment of debt
- Threatening consumers with illegal actions
- Making false statements to collect a debt or obtain information about a consumer
- Withdrawing funds from consumers' bank accounts or charging their credit cards without their consent
- Revealing a consumers' debt to third parties
- Calling consumers before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., or at their place of work
- Harassing consumers with repeated calls and obscene or profane language.