While buying gifts this year, I found myself in the monument to consumerism, the Mall of America. To get my bearing, I did a lap to see if I could find what I wanted: a pair of shoes and an insulated travel mug for my wife. Although there were dozens of stores at which I could have bought my gifts, I only walked into two: Williams-Sonoma and Clarks.
That’s because I did not want to stand in front of a wall of insulated tumblers with no indication of which will do the best job. I just wanted a good tumbler, and I didn’t want to have to think too much about it. Williams-Sonoma only carries high-quality stuff, and as it turned out, they only carried one travel mug in two sizes. It’s awesome, and my wife loves it.
On the one hand, this is awesome. Making deposits using the camera on your iPhone or Android phone is way more convenient than going to a branch — especially if you don’t have a branch nearby. On the other hand, practically every other bank in the country has been doing this for something like five years, and Wells Fargo’s mobile app is one of the worst I have used.
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!).
The revolution will not be televised, but if you have a cable subscription, you can log in to WatchRevolutions.com and use their authenticator to watch the revolution. Just provide your username and password, and you will have access to the revolution live, plus alternate angles, commentary, and the ability to share your login with up two more IP addresses.
Read THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED. at McSweeney’s.
Harvard law professor, originator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and consumer-advocate-in-chief Elizabeth Warren will be a U.S. senator.
Everyone agrees that a consumer plaintiff who prevails in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lawsuit is entitled to get his or her attorney fees and costs paid by the debt collector defendant. But in Marx v. General Revenue Corporation, the question is whether, under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a debt collector can collect costs from an unsuccessful plaintiff. In other words, does the FDCPA apply, or do the rules of civil procedure?
This is a Really Big Deal, because if debt collectors can collect costs from unsuccessful plaintiffs, it will make it riskier to sue debt collectors. Quite apart from the law, the whole point of the FDCPA is to provide a formidable check on debt collection abuses. Damages in these cases are small, so if they cannot recover attorney fees and costs — or if they risk having to pay substantial costs — they will not sue.
If you want people to be able to stop debt collection abuses, then you cannot increase the risk. Doing so will render the FDCPA far less effective as a check on debt collection abuses. If you think consumers and consumer lawyers are running amok, then I suppose you favor the debt collector’s position.
Read Argument preview: Court considers litigation expenses in debt-collection disputes on SCOTUSblog. (Thanks, Graham!)
According to the National Law Journal*, the American Bar Association’s Business Law Section filed comments (PDF) with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau objecting to its latest move to assume jurisdiction over debt collectors — plenty of which are lawyers and law firms. Lawyers don’t like anyone regulating us but other lawyers, generally through state professional responsibility boards, which hear complaints and dole out punishment for ethical infractions. Judges can also punish lawyers for misusing the legal system.
But those options don’t seem to have stemmed the tide of complaints about debt collection abuses, some of which surely come from law firms with more than $10 million in annual receipts from debt collection — the ones now subject to the CFPB’s jurisdiction. Exempting debt collectors from the CFPB’s jurisdiction just because they happen to work for a law firm would be just as silly as exempting them from the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Which they aren’t.
Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that it would finally start taking a good, hard look at the debt collection industry. It’s about time. Few industries need the attention more.
The CFPB also released 3 resources (all in PDF format):
Read Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to oversee debt collectors from the CFPB.