The Lemberg Law Stop Collector Scholarship has been awarded to Ty Stewart, a high school senior from Cincinnati, Iowa. Ty hopes to enroll in the pre-law program at Northwest Missouri State University in the fall of 2016. While he’s excited about all aspects of the law, he says, “I especially like the agricultural and real estate aspects of law.”
Ty took time from his school’s busy Homecoming Week to talk to us about his school activities and hobbies. He’s a member of Future Farmers of America and raises Black Angus cattle. “I used to show when I was younger, but now I just sell the cattle,” he says.
During the spring, Ty competes on his high school’s trap shooting team. The team practices once or twice a week and plays against other high schools.
Ty says that he is thankful for the Stop Collector Scholarship. “I’m from an area that lacks wealth,” he says. “In my area, getting a scholarship means more of an opportunity to pursue higher education.”
“Ty’s winning essay demonstrated that he gave serious thought to issues about debt collection abuse,” said Sergei Lemberg, principal of Lemberg Law. “He came up with a framework for legislation that would enhance consumer protections and hold debt collectors accountable.”
Lemberg concluded, “I’m pleased that we’ll be able to help Ty further his education.”
Here’s Ty’s winning essay:
Debt Collection Legislation By Ty Stewart
I chose to write about legislation that might prevent or stop aggressive and abusive debt collectors.
It’s my understanding that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was signed into law as a way to protect consumers from harassment. However it seems that collectors either refuse to recognize the act or hope that the average consumer is not aware of the rights they have when contacted by a debt collector.
My piece of legislation would require every debt collector to inform the consumer of their rights as soon as they answer the phone call. The debt collector would be required to inform the consumer that they could request verification and validation of the debt. They would have to inform the consumer they can request to only be contacted by mail. They would have to inform the consumer that the consumer has a right to record the phone conversation. Once the debt collector completed informing the consumer of their rights, my legislation would require the debt collector to ask the following questions. Do you wish to receive debt verification and validation? Do you wish to only have contact by mail the USPS mail service? If the consumer answered yes to either the debt collector must simply communicate to the consumer that they will mail the requested documentation and then proceed with communication by the USPS from that point forward. The debt collector would then be required to hang up the phone.
My legislation punishment would not only hold the company liable but also the employee that violated the legislation. If the debt collector violated this procedure the employee would be fined $500 and the company $5000. The second offense for that employee, the fines would double and the third offense would have the employee committing a serious misdemeanor, which would be punishable by the laws of their jurisdiction and the company would be fined $50,000. The company would be put on notice that for each offense the fine would grow and they could not operate while owing a fine. After five fines of any amount in a thirty-day period the business would be fined $100,000.
My legislation would not only affect the employer but the employee. This would ensure proper training and continuous training. It would be mandatory to record phone calls so all complaints could be verified and investigated.
I assume that employees of debt collection agencies are trained to intentionally intimidate the consumer. With my legislation proposal I don’t think it will get to the point of intimidation, as I believe most consumers will want to have the debt validated and verified. If the consumer chooses not too, then the existing laws will cover that consumer and their conversation with the collector.
About the Author:
Sergei Lemberg is a lawyer whose practice focuses on consumer law, class actions and personal injury litigation. He has been repeatedly recognized as the “most active consumer attorney” in the country. In 2020, Mr. Lemberg represented Noah Duguid in the United States Supreme Court in the case entitled Duguid v. Facebook. He is the author of Defanging Debt Collectors, a book that teaches consumers how to battle debt collectors and win.