Sherrod Brown’s Recommendations for Improving the FDCPA

From insideARM, the recommendations include:

  • Require that debt collectors, whether primary creditors or third party collectors, hold all relevant documentation before issuing their first debt collection notice to the consumer.
  • Require that information on prior collection attempts travel with the debt.
  • Prohibit the sale of unverifiable debts.
  • Eliminate the sale or collection of time-barred debt.
  • Issue updated guidance for consumer dispute procedures reflecting the new technological possibilities for documented consumer disputes.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act May Cost Americans Billions of Dollars a Year

Americans spend nearly $6 billion on digital music every year, and that number is growing fast. That is an already-huge and fast-growing pile of digital things. But there is a problem with all those digital assets. Even though you can take your digital music, movies, and books with you everywhere you go, they are much harder than the physical version to give to someone else.

That is because digital things and physical things are treated differently. When you buy a digital thing, it’s more like you are paying for the right to use it in ways specified by the creator of that thing. When you buy a physical thing, on the other hand, you own that thing. You can sell it, loan it, or give it away. Eventually, we all die and give everything away. Maybe our kids aren’t thrilled to get a complete set of Fleetwood Mac records, but someone else might want them — and be willing to pay money for them.

But you cannot pass on most of your digital assets. Not legally, anyway.

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Governor Dayton Vetoes Misguided “Tort Reform” Bills

Today, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a package of tort-reform bills passed by the state legislature earlier this week. I was particularly happy to see his reasons for vetoing SF 429, which would have rendered many consumer and civil rights statutes effectively unenforceable in Minnesota. Here’s a choice excerpt from Governor Dayton’s veto letter for that bill:

Over 300 Minnesota statutes require the shifting of attorney fees to the wrongdoer—all of which would be negatively impacted by this legislation. Deployed military personnel, farmers, vulnerable adults, and victims of workplace harassment, wrongful termination, and discrimination are just a few of the classes of individuals that would be harmed by this legislation.

Read all of Governor Dayton’s tort reform veto letters.

Voter ID Won’t Prevent Fraud, but Will Prevent Votes

Across the country, legislators (mostly Republicans) are pushing for so-called “voter ID” laws that would require every voter to present a photo ID before casting his or her vote. This requirement is ostensibly meant to reduce voting fraud. In fact, it would do no such thing.

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Minnesota Considers Reforming Away Consumers’ Rights

Tomorrow, the Minnesota House of Representatives will consider two “tort reform” bills that would eviscerate Minnesota’s consumer protection statutes and set up road blocks to discourage class actions. The first bill is former Senator Linda Scheid’s stupid, anti-consumer bill, sponsored in the House by representatives Pat Mazorol (R), Denise Dittrich (D), Bev Scalze (D), Keith Downey (R), and Sandra Peterson (D). The bill will effectively remove attorney fees from consumer protection statutes—i.e., the main reason why consumer lawyers are able to take such cases in the first place.

The second grants defendants an interlocutory appeal from any class certification decision. This would add approximately two years to every class action, giving defendants a powerful new way to delay the proceedings and lose more paperwork.

If you are in Minnesota, please call your representative and ask him or her to oppose these bills.

No Robocalls to Cell Phones (For Now)

The ill-thought-out bill sponsored by Nebraska representative Lee Terry that would have allowed debt collectors, banks, and other companies to robocall your cell phone appears dead, according to US PIRG. Phew.

Minnesota State Senator Linda Scheid v. Consumers

This past week, Minnesota Senator Linda Scheid resurrected a stupid, anti-consumer bill she also co-sponsored two years ago. I had hoped we saw the last of the bill when Representative Thissen pulled his support two years ago, but Senator Scheid seems determined to see it done.
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High Interest Rates Only Work if You Hide Them

In the wake of the CARD Act, credit card interest rates are rising. This should not be a surprise, since the CARD Act forces lenders to put the true cost of a credit card front-and-center. Credit card issuers cannot advertise a low rate and then use fees to jack up the true cost of the card.

By forcing this sort of honesty, the CARD Act has exposed a secret: high interest rates aren’t the result of the market. If consumers know that a card has an interest rate of, say, 79.99%, they won’t pay it.

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FTC Responds to Senator Al Franken


Background: Minnesota debt collectors sue like crazy and manipulate the courts to land debtors in jail. The Star-Tribune’s Chris Serres tells it like it is. Senator Al Franken gets pissed and tells the FTC to get with the program.

A month later, the FTC responded to Senator Franken’s letter. In sum, the FTC’s letter reads thus: “We’re doing some stuff. But yeah, what’s going on in Minnesota doesn’t sound right. And hey, it wouldn’t hurt to add some protections to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.”

It’s kind of a weak response. I think the FTC is just hoping this goes away so it doesn’t have to do anything. It didn’t bother making concrete recommendations, for example. And the FTC’s statement that “The Demand for Disclosure contains a clear and prominent statement . . . .” Is just wishful thinking. Legal forms rarely contain clear statements of anything, and the collection forms are particularly obtuse.

Here’s hoping that Senator Franken doesn’t let this die.

Elizabeth Warren for Sheriff (of the CFPB)

Just sayin’.