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Collector Conservatism, Part 2: The Long Arm Of The Law

Posted on November 22 2009 4:00 am
Divorced Dad of three. Collection A.V.P. by day, humor/political blogger after the evening dishes. Looking for hot/wealthy/uber-lifted Scottsdale Granny for hi-jinks, hiking, and Saturday-morning coffee. Is this e-harmony?
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Editor’s Note: To read part 1 of this series, click here.

One thing I’ve learned after years in the collection industry is that once the Government gets involved in your business, it grows ever more intrusive.

And the bureaucrats that craft laws are also not above throwing in sanctions to force their dream on the rest of us.

The recent battle over Obamacare illustrates this belief. Take a look at this House session from C-Span:

As Peter Roskam (R., IL) points out, if H.R. 3200 (not to mention the Senate version of the same legislation) is such manna from heaven, why would there need to be any kind of punitive element to the bill?

Mr. Roskam states:

“You look inside that bill and you find handcuffs.”

“Now I’m not talking about figurative handcuffs: I’m talking about criminal penalties!”

To be honest, I am not aware of any criminal penalties in my field unless someone were to threaten violence towards a debtor – but the civil penalties are omnipresent, and I can tell you that over my years as a bill collector, manager, and operations manager they haven’t lessened – at all.

The growth – and corollary arrogance – of regulatory bodies in the world of collections should be a lesson to all who think Health Insurance “Reform” is anything other than a massive power-grab by Socialist elements in the Democratic Party – who will use the might the finished legislation gives them to bully everyone (insurance companies, employers and even you and me) if we don’t just shut up and go along.

Public Law 95-109, or The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, is my livelihood’s own pint-sized version of the monstrosity currently being crafted in Washington, D.C.

Passed in 1977 (during the halcyon days of the Carter administration), the FDCPA has never shrunk in scope, and in fact, has been added to seven different times since the original legislation passed.

Covering everything from the definition of “harassment” to what language can be used in a dunning notice, the Law puts the “burden” of any kind of alleged “wrongdoing” “squarely upon the shoulders of the debt collector,” which means that if anyone accuses you of any kind of malfeasance, even when you’re innocent (hate to say it, but we almost always are – bullying customers is not what the banks look for when they hire you,) you had better settle, or you’re going to pay a ton – and maybe even have your license suspended or nullified by the Federal Trade Commission, or one of the 50 States Attorney’s Generals.

Want to get out of a just debt that you owe? Just accuse the collector of a string of shady goings on – each “violation” of the law nets the accuser $1,000, not counting pain and suffering and all the rest of it.

The Plaintiffs’ Bar just l0ves this sort of regulation: A crack Barrister has more to exploit when there are numerous codicils and asides and muddy language contained in an edict.

And they know that even if you have a recording of a conversation that proves you to be as clean as Howdy Doody, you will probably pay – because the aforementioned FTC and State AG’s (and even the American Collectors Association) also look at the frequency of lawsuits filed against you – too many and you’ve got a big target on your for-profit enterprise.

Have we discussed activist judges as well? Well, maybe next time. Let’s just say that collection agencies aren’t the most popular folks out there.

And we’re just small-fry. Many other businesses have been the victims of this kind of meddling – and have war stories that are far more painful than mine.

As Nancy Pelosi (D., CA) and Harry Reid (D., NV) shepherd their latest exploitation of good people’s best instincts (“Let’s help the less fortunate”) through the negotiating process, just remember this:

The FDCPA is only 22 pages long (although the case law and associated commentary pushes it to over 800).

The House and Senate Obamacare travesties are each how lengthy?

Somewhere I hear an attorney filing his fangs.

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