Red light Cameras Headed to the Minnesota Supreme Court

We have done a few posts about the Minnesota red light camera saga. The ACLU-Minnesota initially challenged the ruling in district court and won. And won again at the Court of Appeals. And now the Minnesota Supreme Court wants to look at the case.

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So You’ve Been Sued, and You Answered. What Next?

Following up on this post (In the event of a lawsuit, please head for the nearest lawyer), I thought I would talk a little bit about what to do after you are sued and after you answer the debt collection complaint. (If none of that made sense to you, go ahead and find yourself a consumer attorney.

More on combating debt collection lawsuits after the jump.

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Give a Cow for [Your Holiday of Choice Here]

Consumer news is slow in coming this week (and we have been too bogged down in suing consumer predators to take note of any that has come in, anyway), so instead, I want to suggest a fantastic gift idea. If you are tired of buying ties, Brookstone gizmos, and throwaway doo-dads, consider a gift that truly does keep on giving: a donation to a favorite charity.

If you ask me, the coolest charity right now is the Heifer Project. Based on the “teach a man to fish” concept of charity, the Heifer Project sends livestock to needy families. You don’t have to worry that half your donation goes to staff salaries, because all they do is buy the cow, flock of chicks, llama, honeybees, water buffalo, etc., and hand it over. And the family promises to pass on some of the offspring to another family in need.

Their online gift catalog is full of how-can-you-pass-this-up-it-is-so-cute gifts that anyone would be thrilled to “get.”

Bob Lawless is a Downer (if You Are the Credit Industry)

Bob Lawless, blogger at Credit Slips, has a debrief posting on Credit Slips, summarizing his testimony before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Court.

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The Most Aggravating CSR Phone Call I Have Ever Heard.

Verizon customer service representatives are apparently incapable of third-grade-level seventh-grade-level (see comments) mathematics. If you can make it through this recording without wanting to scream, you may need remedial math.

In short, $.002 does not equal 0.002¢, although this fact seems to be untrue (a) in Canada and (b) in Verizon-land.

Using Unlocked Phones

For those unaware, the U.S. Copyright Office recently made a ruling that GSM cell phone providers must unlock your cell phone so that you can use it on any GSM network. This is good news for consumers, since you are no longer tied into a manufacturer’s phone selection.

Consumerist just picked up on a recent ABC news article on this topic, in which ABC reviewed phones you can buy direct from the manufacturer, unlocked, and then use on whatever GSM network (Cingular, T-Mobile) you like.

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Incoming Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson Starts Talking

Lori Swanson, the Minnesota AG-elect, has started talking about what she intends to do with her time in office, starting in January. In a press conference yesterday, she announced that predatory lenders will be her first target. She will start with an 11-member “study group” that will be charged with coming up with proposals to stop predatory lending.

Predatory lending, of course, is one of–if not the main–cause of the skyrocketing foreclosure rates around Minnesota and the country. Consumer education will, of course, be a part of the solution, but Swanson is looking at an array of options.

Swanson also announced today that she may keep outgoing attorney general Mike Hatch in the office. She offered him her old post as solicitor general (assistant attorney general, in regular-speak). It might make for an awkward office, in the eyes of the public if not in reality, but Hatch was a powerful voice for consumers, and it would be kind of nice to see him continuing to play a role.

Not according to House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, however, who said it would look “odd:”

“It kind of reminds you of when Governor George Wallace (of Alabama) had his wife run for governor, and everybody knew who the real governor was,” Seifert said.

Is Seifert trying to say Swanson and Hatch are romantically involved, that she will be ineffective on her own, or what? Uh . . .

Chase Cracks Down on Delinquent Cardholders

Chase bank, one of the three or four largest credit card banks in the country, has seemingly been on a mission to screw its cardholders recently. First, it raised its default APR 5% to 32.4%. Now, Chase has decided to continue billing overlimit fees on accounts more htan 180 days past due.

Previously, Chase extended amnesty of sorts to such delinquent accounts, on the grounds that such cardholders were having enough trouble repaying their cards anyway. Why make it even more difficult by charging them a $39 late fee and a $39 overlimit fee every month? We have our theories, which start with this: an account 180 days past due is already destined for collections. The more the amount to be collected, the more the account sells to a debt buyer for. Might as well jack up the amount due and get more back from the debt buying industry, right?

Right, and give debt collectors even more incentive to abuse debtors.

The Foreclosure Epidemic Reaches the Middle Class in Minnesota

One has the sense that most people read about the booming foreclosure rates across the country and sees a flashing “THEM” in their mind. As in THEM, not US. The suburbs, middle-class enclaves that they are, have largely avoided news reporters interested in reporting on foreclosures. No longer. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, many suburban families are living just as close to the line between property and poverty. Precise numbers are hard to come by, but according to the article “foreclosures are now cutting across income groups.”

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Payday Loans Cost Consumers $4.2 Billion Annually

Shockingly, the average payday borrower spends $793 on a $325 loan. Dear. God.

“Contrary to [the Center for Responsible Lending]’s spin, responsible uses of the payday product provides consumers firm footing to overcome unexpected financial circumstances,” said Ken Compton, chief executive of Advance America, in a press release.” Spin? It is no spin to say that payday loans are loansharking. Being technically legal doesn’t excuse that.

I mean, payday loans are so bad that consumer advocates recommend consumers in a pinch take out a cash advance on a credit card, even a high-interest card. That’s because a credit card with a 40% APR is a steal compared to payday loans, which usually have APRs far above 100% (usually more like 300-1000% APR).