State Officials Crack Down On Harassing Bill Collectors
Harassing phone calls and threatening messages from debt collectors have lead thousand of Floridians to ask for the state’s help, but their complaints have fallen on deaf ears. As Whitney Ray reports, the state has ignored complaints because it’s been unclear about who has the authority to crack down on the abusive collectors.
Eva Porter can’t get the phone to stop ringing. Debt collectors trying to get in touch with her brother have been calling Eva seven times a day. Her brother moved out a year ago, but that hasn’t stopped the calls. “It’s just aggravating to have to deal with those harassing phone calls,” Eva said.
Federal law prohibits debt collects from calling before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 at night. They’re also not allowed to make threats. Eva says the company calling her doesn’t play by the rules. “They’ve called at 7 o’clock in the morning on Saturday. They’ve even called one morning and woke me up at 6:30,” said Eva.
Debt collectors have become more aggressive since the economy tanked. 6,000 calls and emails have come into two state agencies. But most of the complaints have been ignored because of confusion over who has the authority to police the debt collectors.
Attorney General Bill McCollum says his office lacks authority. “A lot of confusion exists about this issue, and I want to be sure we have the powers people think we do,” said McCollum.
The AG’s office refers the complaints to the Office of Financial Regulation. CFO Alex Sink, who doesn't oversee the OFR, says she doesn't care who is to blame; she just wants the problem fixed. "I’m not into pointing fingers. I’m into making the right thing happen and to protecting Florida citizens from these practices,” said Sink.
Both McCollum and CFO Alex Sink are asking for legislation to make the policing process easier. The state cabinet members, who are both running for governor, are asking lawmakers to act quickly. Both are hoping for legislation to be passed in the 2010 legislative session which begins in March.
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