D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine’s Office of Consumer Protection has reached a settlement with California-based debt collection company Collect Pros and its owner, Michael Ross, that requires the company to forgive $219,297 in uncollected consumer debt held by District residents.
Collect Pros is a third-party debt buyer that purchased and collected debts they claimed District consumers owed, such as magazine subscriptions — which consumers complained they had never agreed to. In other instances, many of the debts had already been settled, discharged or were otherwise uncollectible from consumers under District law.
“One of the biggest complaints we hear from consumers in the District is about aggressive or abusive debt collectors,” Racine said in a statement issued Friday to announce the settlement. “These companies cannot call and demand that consumers pay debts they do not owe. As this settlement demonstrates, our office is committed to ensuring that companies deal fairly with consumers.”
Under the settlement, Collect Pros is also required to return $1,194.15 in restitution for debts it did collect from D.C. consumers, pay a $2,500 civil penalty to the city, and stop violating the District’s debt collection and consumer protection laws.
The settlement prohibits Collect Pros from:
• Engaging in any unlawful practice prohibited by the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act or the District’s Debt Collection Law;
• Collecting on any illegal debt from District consumers;
• Assigning, transferring, or selling any illegal debt to a third party;
• Reporting adverse information to credit reporting agencies concerning any of the illegal debts; and
• Engaging in any debt collection trade practices without:
• Validating and verifying debts consistent with the federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act;
• Registering to do business with the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs;
• Writing and implementing written policies and procedures regarding pre-litigation debt collection in the District of Columbia; and
• Retaining all records of all written communications and correspondence with consumers for a period of up to three years.
Consumers who have been victimized by debt collectors may contact the OAG Office of Consumer Protection at 202-442-9892, by emailing email@example.com or by filing a complaint via the office’s website.