Sometimes administrative errors cause real problems for real people. From Consumerist:
Typically, the notices of delinquent bills get mailed in late January to mid-February, but this year there was a transition to a new collection agency, which delayed the process.
That same transition mucked up the city’s ability to easily figure out which property owners still owed some or all of their $178 annual fee for the last 10 years. Instead, the collection company was authorized to use the city’s written records to put together a database of who still owed money.
It sounds like they send collection notices to a lot of people who already paid. Residents are pissed, but the city seems to think it’s no big deal. “If a property owner can produce proof of payment, such as a receipt or canceled check, [the city treasurer] will certify that the fee was paid.” I’m sure that will be great comfort to everyone who has kept 10 years of receipts and canceled checks.
Read “Scranton sends out delinquent garbage bills from 1999 through 2011” on the Scranton Times-Tribune.
The case, which was investigated by the Attorney General’s office and Hazlehurst Police Department, eventually saw King plead guilty to the sale of the five DVDs and one CD. But despite his apparent cooperation, King received the harshest sentence for a copyright infringement offense that we’ve ever seen.
Judge Lamar Pickard in Copiah County Circuit Court ordered King to serve a total of 15 years in jail to be followed by three years supervised release.
Look, profiting from illegally-copied movies and music may be piracy, but 15 years is absurd. You’d get less time for burglary. Here’s the response from the RIAA:
This sentencing demonstrates that theft of intellectual property is treated as a serious crime in Mississippi and highlights the fact that the individuals engaging in these activities are frequently serial criminals for whom IP theft is simply the most convenient and profitable way they could steal from others.
We extend our thanks and appreciation to Attorney General Hood for his leadership in IP enforcement and to the dedicated law enforcement officers and prosecutors who worked on the case.
It’s interesting to see the RIAA say that movie and music pirates are “frequently serial criminals,” since it also acknowledged that file-sharers/pirates are also the biggest fans of its artists, and spend more money on movies and music, in general. Also felons, apparently.
Read “RIAA Celebrates 15 Year Jail Sentence For Movie and Music Pirate” on TorrentFreak (thanks, Danny!).
For as often as I represented people sued by Gurstel Chargo or sued Gurstel Chargo for FDCPA violations, I’m shocked at how little I wrote about one of Minnesota’s busiest debt collection law firms. I actually know the marketer (a lovely person, actually) who came up with Gurstel’s current marketing campaign, and I chuckled when I saw it for the first time. Accountability Matters as a debt collector slogan is the height of hubris. I’m just grateful I’m here to see Gurstel take its own medicine.
Here’s what a Gurstel
lawyer told a disabled veteran:
Fuck you! Pay us your money! You can’t afford an attorney. You owe us. I hope your wife divorces your ass. If you would have served our country better you would not be a disabled veteran living off social security while the rest of us honest Americans work our ass off. Too bad; you should have died.
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When “fashionista lawyer” Carolyn Kellman returned shorts she bought from Forever 21 for $14.46, she received just $14.45. And sued. As Scott Greenfield observes, although this looks at first blush like much ado about nothing, it is actually a perfect example of what a class action lawsuit is for: small damages spread out across a huge swath of consumers.
(It’s also possible that Kellman was the only person ever shortchanged, but as the article in the Daily Business Review points out, rounding receipts to make it easier to make change is done at other retailers, like Chipotle.)
All Kellman and her lawyers have to do now is find another 749,999 customers who were shortchanged, in order to make it past the Miami-Date threshold of $15,000.
According to the City Pages, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Al Franken aren’t quite giving up on the Protect IP Act in the wake of Wednesday’s internet-wide protest. Instead, they say they are interested in a “compromise” that will preserve the bill.
Aaron Rupar from the City Pages calls bullshit, and so do I. Even Michele Bachmann is on the right side of this issue, while Klobuchar and Franken remain anti-internet. Then again, this isn’t Klobuchar’s first piece of anti-internet legislation.
(Representative Keith Ellison, on the other hand, actually joined in the blackout.)
Another great infographic from the New York Times showing what the 1% do for a living. (Click to visit the interactive infographic.)
As part of their plans to grind Congress to a halt, the GOP swore to block any nomination of a head to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. However, according to the New York Times, the President plans to appoint Cordray while Congress is in recess. The legality of the move is apparently a bit murky, though, so we’ll wait to see how this plays out. (Hat tip to ShortFormBlog!)
Edit: Check out Cordray’s first post on the CFPB blog.
Heeding cries of outrage from the internet, Verizon decided to drop the “convenience fee” it planned to start charging for single credit card payments. Look for the cost of future Verizon cell phone plans to rise by $2, which the internet won’t complain about because it isn’t called a “convenience fee,” and everyone will pay it no matter how they pay their bills.
In other news, Spring is still doing the same thing.
Homeowner Nancy Gosselin hasn’t missed a payment since she refinanced her house with Bremer Bank in 2005. Bremer agrees. But CitiMortgage, which wound up purchasing the loan, started assessing late fees more than two years ago, refused to accept Gosselin’s mortgage payments, and then started foreclosure proceedings last spring to collect those late fees and charges Gosselin apparently didn’t owe. In short, CitiMortgage tried to take Gosselin’s home over $700.
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Countrywide’s headlong rush to write as many loans as possible was really an effort to extract as many fees as possible from those transactions. That’s how mortgage originators make their money. Countrywide’s brokers also systematically discriminated against minorities (about two-thirds Hispanic and one-third black); in over 200,000 cases, it jacked up interest rates and fees, and added less-favorable terms.
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