Debt collection agency faces federal complaint over collection practices

Jon Campisi Nov. 8, 2011, 8:41am

A New Jersey woman has filed a federal complaint against a debt collection agency, alleging the defendant repeatedly harassed her in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Attorneys Craig Thor Kimmel and Tara L. Patterson, of the Ambler, Pa. law firm of Kimmel & Silverman, P.C., filed the civil action Nov. 4 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Shirley Robbins of Little Egg Harbor, N.J.

The defendant named in the lawsuit is Horsham, Pa.-based NCO Financial Systems, Inc.

According to the complaint, the defendant, who was hired to collect a consumer debt from Robbins, started repeatedly contacting the plaintiff on her home and cellular phone beginning in April of this year and continuing through September.

The defendant contacted Robbins on average two times a day, the suit claims, but on occasion four times a day. This amounted to about 20 collection calls per month. The calls were often made late in the evening, sometime after 9 p.m.

And when she wouldn’t answer her phone, the lawsuit states, the defendant would leave voicemails.

During a conversation this past June, an NCO representative told Robbins that the agency could take “all of her assets to pay the debt, further claiming that a lawyer would be taking her to court and levying her funds from her checking and savings accounts,” the complaint states.

On other occasions, the suit claims, the defendant threatened legal action against Robbins if she did not make payment on the alleged debt.

“In those instances where Defendant made threats to take legal action against Plaintiff, take her assets and levy her bank accounts, Defendant did not intend to take such action; rather, Defendant made those statements solely to cause stress, fear and humiliation, believing that to do so would substantially increase the likelihood of the debt being paid by Plaintiff,” the lawsuit states.

In a last-ditch attempt to get the plaintiff to pay the alleged debt, the suit states, the defendant contacted a friend of the plaintiff’s, and notified the friend that it was attempting to collect a debt from Robbins.

The complaint alleges that NCO contacted the plaintiff’s friend on 10 documented separate occasions.

“At no time did Plaintiff give consent to Defendant to release information about the alleged debt to third parties, particularly to her friend,” the lawsuit claims. “Upon information and belief, Defendant disclosed to a third party that [plaintiff] owes a debt with the intent to embarrass and harass Plaintiff into paying the debt.”

The lawsuit accuses the defendant of attempting to intimidate the plaintiff by placing the numerous harassing phone calls to her on a constant basis.

“The repetitive calls to Plaintiff were intended by Defendant to be disturbing, harassing and an invasion of privacy, so that Plaintiff would pay the alleged debt,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit accuses the defendant of violating the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for disclosing to a third party that it was attempting to collect a debt from the plaintiff, and for using “false, deceptive or misleading representations or means in connection with the collection of a debt.”

Robbins seeks actual damages, statutory damages of $1,000, attorney’s fees and other relief.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-06923-GP.

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