In a turn of the tables that would make all debtors chuckle, a woman sued a collection agency for violating her rights and won $10 million dollars. What's ironic with this story is that she won by default... the collection agency reps never even bothered to show up in court.
Surely, 10 million dollars is worth an appearance. Afterall, we aren't talking about a 1500.00 judgment, folks. $10 million dollars is a lot of money. Still, according to this article, the woman says the collection agency lost by default. Something we always warn people to NEVER do. At least if you show up you have a chance of fighting it or winning.
The collection agency apparently has representation; as their attorney was quoted as saying the judgment was unfair and that their client does not engage in this type of FDCPA violation activity they were accused of.
According to the woman, the collection agency was auto-dialing her and harassing her for a non-existent debt. Whether the debt was expired or false altogether isn't clear, but that didn't matter because the lawsuit she filed was for harassment.
The case is the largest of its kind for a single complainant. The woman hasn't collected yet, but unless the company appeals and has the judgment dismissed or files for bankruptcy, she should be able to collect. Maybe not every penny, but if the company is operating and profitable, she should be able to collect something. Hopefully she can put them out of business if this is something they've been doing to others.
The lawsuit alleges that the collection agency was calling her repeatedly and hanging up. The phone number on her caller ID was apparently spoofed and showed the calls coming from the sheriff's department. The suit also alleged that there was evidence online that they had done this to others. That's not surprising. Usually there is a pattern of this type of activity within the collection agency when a few complaints come in.
This type of collection agency harassment is nothing new. The FTC receives more complaints about collection agencies than any other type of business. Typical complaints are robo-calling, threats, and illegally filed lawsuits. Debt collectors have to follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or they can be sued. Unfortunately they messed with the wrong woman in this case and she took the case much further than small claims court.
Collection agencies represent many industries. They typically collect on medical bills and unsecured debts like credit cards and gym memberships. The debts are usually sold for just pennies and the agencies make a big profit on the balances. Most people aren't aware that they can sue a collection agency for actual money and damages. They tend to think they're limited to filing a complaint or sending a cease and desist letter, but the FDCPA gives you much more power.