Consumer Protection: Federal Laws Enacted to Protect Consumers. With Anthony C. Norman – Managing Attorney in Grand Rapids, MI.
Consumer Protection is becoming one of the fastest-growing areas of law in the United States. There are numerous federal and state laws enacted to protect consumers from companies that engage in improper practices. Of the numerous federal laws enacted, three main laws appear the most: the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
The FDCPA has been in existence for over 40 years and its purpose is to limit the behavior and actions of third-party debt collectors who are attempting to collect a debt on behalf of another entity. The FDCPA prohibits various collection behaviors like the use of obscene or profane language to a consumer, communicating with a consumer before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. local time, and threatening to take action that cannot legally be taken. These are just a few examples the law prohibits. If a debt collector is found to be in violation of the FDCPA, the debt collector would be liable to the consumer for actual damages, statutory damages of up to $1,000.00, attorneys’ fees and court costs.
The TCPA was enacted in 1991 but has seen the most action in the past ten years with a large uptick of lawsuits being filed each year. The TCPA has enumerated various prohibited practices but the most prevalent is the use of an autodialer system and/or pre-recorded message to a consumer’s cell phone by call or text without the consumer’s prior consent. Many banks, loan servicers, debt collectors, car finance companies and other companies alike use autodialer systems or pre-recorded messages to communicate with their customers, especially when the customer is behind on a payment. If a company is found liable under this provision of the TCPA, the consumer may be entitled to statutory damages of $500 per violation (per call) or $1,500 for each willful or knowing violation (per call). As you can imagine, this law has caused havoc for many companies and numerous class actions have been brought. If you do a quick Google search for TCPA, you will find a plethora of cases and companies being sued under the law, so much that nearly every major nationwide law firm in the country has a department focused solely on TCPA defense.
The FCRA was put into place to regulate credit reporting agencies and compel them to insure the information they gather and distribute is a fair and accurate summary of a consumer’s credit history. The FCRA provides consumers with the ability to correct any inaccurate information of their credit reports, and provides for legal remedies if a credit reporting agency or furnisher violates a consumer’s rights. Some violations include a credit reporting agency failing to correct any errors or explain why the credit report is correct within 30 days of receiving notice of dispute by the consumer or an entity pulling or checking a consumer’s check without the consumer’s authorization.
With the filing of these lawsuits growing more and more each year, it is no wonder why consumer protection is becoming one of the fastest-growing areas of law for both Plaintiff and Defense firms.
About the Author: Anthony C. Norman, Managing Attorney in Grand Rapids, MI.
Anthony C. Norman was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan and has established deep roots in the West Michigan Community. He went to East Kentwood for high school and then attended Grand Valley State University, where he graduated with a B.B.A. in Finance. After college, like many other Michiganders, Anthony moved to Florida where he attended law school at Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, Florida. While in law school, Anthony was a Student Bar Association Legislator and the President of the Corporate and Business Law Society. In addition, he worked as a law clerk for a prominent law firm, McGlinchey Stafford, PLLC, where he helped attorneys defend banks and loan servicers who were being sued for violating various consumer protection laws, specifically the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act.
After graduating law school, Anthony took a position as an attorney at a small law firm in Fort Myers, Florida where we focused mainly on business law, civil litigation, commercial litigation and construction litigation. While in Fort Myers, Florida, Anthony was a member of the Lee County Bar Association and social chair for the Young Lawyers Division of the Lee County Bar Association. After spending a year in Fort Myers, Anthony moved across the state to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he represented individuals and specialized in consumer protection, foreclosure defense and civil litigation. While practicing in Fort Lauderdale, Anthony handled over 100 federal lawsuits in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida representing individuals suing various banks, loan servicers, debt collectors and car finance companies for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). In addition, he handled and oversaw over 100 state civil lawsuits throughout the South Florida area involving foreclosure defense, debt defense and contract disputes. After practicing in Florida for over 3 years, Anthony felt it was time to come home and help the people of West Michigan with their legal matters. In his spare time, Anthony loves to play golf and travel.