Great Lakes Collection Bureau, Inc. has agreed to pay a $150,000 civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that it violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by improperly contacting third parties, using abusive language, and falsely threatening attachment or garnishment of wages or property, or other legal actions.
The settlement prohibits the Buffalo, New York-based company from violating the FDCPA, requires the company to notify consumers of their right to tell Great Lakes to stop contacting them, and to notify its employees that they may be held liable for FDCPA violations.
The FTC's complaint detailing the charges in this case alleges that Great Lakes violated the FDCPA by, among other things:
The consent decree settling the charges would prohibit Great Lakes from engaging in the above practices or otherwise violating the FDCPA, and require the $150,000 civil penalty to be paid within five days. Additionally, the settlement would require Great Lakes to inform consumers of their right to ask the debt collector to stop contacting them by providing the following notice to consumers in each initial written communication for three years:
Further, the settlement would require Great Lakes to provide the following notice to present and newly-hired employees responsible for debt collection:
Finally, the settlement contains a number of recordkeeping requirements that would assist the FTC in monitoring Great Lakes' compliance with the settlement.
The Commission vote to authorize the filing of the complaint and consent decree was 5-0.
The Department of Justice, on behalf of the FTC, filed the settlement in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, in Buffalo, on Aug. 30, and it requires the judge's approval to become binding.
NOTE: A consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute admission of a law violation. A consent decree has the force of law when signed by the judge.
Consumers' rights and debt collectors' responsibilities under the FDCPA are outlined in a consumer brochure, "Fair Debt Collection," which is available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, at the address below.
Copies of the complaint and consent decree, as well as the consumer brochure, are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 202-326-2502. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC File No. 912 3206)
(Civil Action No. 95-CV-0745A(S))