The National Consumer Law Center in Boston is the nation’s leader in providing legal research, legal publications and direct support for lawyers representing consumers. The following list of common consumer law violations was prepared by the NCLC.
This common illegal conduct can and does lead to significant penalties against wrongdoers in cases prosecuted by private attorneys, but only when consumer seek and obtain informed legal advice and representation from attorneys with experience in consumer law who can make a difference.
1. Attorneys letting collectors use their name in collection letters without first adequately reviewing the debtor’s file. Attorneys are now covered by the Fair Debt Collection practices Act, and this and other violations can result in the collection attorney being liable for up to $1,000 plus actual damages plus attorney fees. See NCLC’s Fair Debt Collection Manual.
2. Credit bureaus’ failure to prevent the same error from recurring in the consumer’s file. As many as 50 million consumers have inaccurate credit records, and reporting agencies failure to take appropriate steps to permanently correct errors can result in a consumer’s recovery under the FCRA for actual and punitive damages and attorney fees. See NCLC’s Fair Credit Reporting Manual.
3. Loan flipping and rip-off second mortgages. Frequent flipping of consumers into new loans often makes a bad deal even worse. Second mortgages related to debt consolidation or home repairs may contain outrageous terms. Consumer attorneys are finding new ways to stop foreclosures, cancel loans and recover hefty damages and attorney fees for these and other examples of lender overreaching. See NCLC’s The Cost of Credit: Regulation and Legal Challenges.
4. Sellers jacking up the cash price for high risk debtors. This and other types of hidden finance charges (such as junk fees, fictitious broker’s fees, or bogus insurance) violate TILA and state credit statutes, and can lead to $1,000 or more in statutory damages, actual damages, and attorney fees. See NCLC’s Truth In Lending Manual and The Cost of Credit Regulation and Legal Challenges.
5. Pursuing collection contacts, lawsuits, garnishments, or repossessions despite the bankruptcy stay or discharge. Violations of the automatic stay or bankruptcy discharge can lead to actual and punitive damages and attorney fees. See NCLC’s Consumer Bankruptcy Law and Practice Manual.
6. Car lessors withholding interest on security deposits or mis-disclosing early termination penalties, purchase options, trade-ins, taxes, or warranties. These and related practices can all violate the Consumer Leasing Act and can result in $1,000 statutory damages, actual damages and attorney fees. See NCLC’s Truth in Lending Manual.
7. Faulty notice of or commercially unreasonable conduct of a repossession sale. These are just some of the wide array of defenses to an auto loan deficiency action that can result in a net recovery of thousands of dollars for the consumer and, in many cases, attorney fees for the consumer’s attorney. See NCLC’s Repossession and Foreclosure Manual.
8. An astonishing percentage of used car sales involve reset odometers, salvaged vehicles, or lemon laundering! These violations can lead to $1,500 minimum damages, treble damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees. See NCLC’s Odometer Law Manual and Sales of Good and Service Manual.
9. Contracts providing that a lease, future service contract, or other transaction cannot be canceled or that a dealer is not subject to the oral promises of its employees. These and similar attempts to limit consumer rights are unfair and deceptive, and can lead to consumer recoveries of multiple, statutory, or punitive damages and attorney fees under a state UDAP statute. See NCLC’s Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices Manual.
10. Requiring a spouse to co-sign a loan. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act limits a lender’s ability to require a spouse to co-sign a loan and also requires lenders to promptly notify the consumer of any denial of credit. Violations lead to actual damages [such as the amount of the co-signer’s obligation], punitive damages, and attorney fees. See NCLC’s Credit Discrimination Manual.
In the cases listed above the NCLC has prepared in-depth legal research memoranda and sample class action pleadings that can provide consumers with significant recoveries, multiple and punitive damages and force the wrongdoers to pay the attorney fees of consumers.
Superlative manuals, which are noted above, contain legal research, practice suggestions and form complaints. All available from the NCLC, 18 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02108, phone 617.523.8089, fax 617.523.7398. In addition attorney consulting services are also available.
To locate an attorney with experience in consumer credit, unfair debt collection, unfair and deceptive practices, credit discrimination, truth in lending, or fair credit reporting, contact your best resource — the National Association of Consumer Advocates, email [email protected], 18 Tremont Street, Suite 310, Boston, MA 02108, phone 617.723.1239 or fax 617.742.5044.