This presentation outlines resources for consumers in Missouri to submit their consumer complaints. It also walks the consumer through the various steps a complaint goes through when it is submitted to the Better Business Bureau and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. Finally, the presentation concludes with a brief overview of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, which is a statute that empowers consumers to bring fraudulent businesses to justice. [embeddoc url=”http://myconsumertips.info/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Consumer-Protection-Laws.pptx” download=”all” viewer=”microsoft”]
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the main law that regulates how a collector collects on a debt. By knowing your rights under this law you can empower yourself and protect yourself from harassment or misleading practices by collectors.
1. Collectors can only call between 8 A.M. and 9 P.M. in YOUR time zone. c(a)(1)
The FDCPA directly states that collection agencies can’t call at a place or time which is obviously inconvenient to the consumer. The law sets out 8 A.M. to 9 P.M. as an assumed acceptable time to contact the debtor. However, you can tell the collector if there’s a different time range that works best for you!
2. Collectors can’t call you at work if you tell them not to. c(a)(3)
Collectors are within their rights to attempt to contact a debtor at their place of work. However, if you aren’t able to receive phone calls of that nature at work and tell the collector that, then they can no longer contact you there!
3. Collectors can’t call family members or friends more than once. b(a)(3)
Typically a collector may call a friend of family member of a debtor in order to receive contact information for the debtor. However, the FDCPA states that the collector may only call the family member or friend once, and cannot mention anything about the debtor owing money. Essentially, the FDCPA protects from collectors harassing family and friends to attempt to force the debtor into paying.
4. Collectors can’t threaten to sue or repossess if they don’t mean it. e(a)(4)
It is against the FDCPA for a collector to imply that not paying a debt will result in the repossession or lawsuit against the debtor if the repossession or lawsuit is unlawful or if the collector has no intention to take such action.
5. Collectors can’t lie about what you owe. e(a)(2)(A)
Harassing collectors may try to pressure a debtor into paying by saying the debtor owes more than they do. This action is also strictly prohibited by the FDCPA.
6. Collectors can’t call you repeatedly in one day (d)(a)(5)
Incessant calling is one of the main complaints against collection agencies. Which is why the FDCPA states that “causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number” is harassment.
7. Collectors must send you a letter with information of your debt (g)(a)
The FDCPA states that within five days of initial communication with a debtor the collector must send a “validation letter” which states the amount of the debt, the original creditor the debt came from, how to dispute the debt, and how to pay the debt.
8. Collector’s can’t call you if you have a lawyer for your debts b(a)(6), c(a)(2)
If a debt collector knows that the debtor is represented by an attorney regarding the debt and has or can easily obtain the attorney’s contact information, then, under the FDCPA, the collector can no longer contact the debtor.
9. Collector’s can’t threaten to have you arrested (e)(a)(4)
It is directly against the FDCPA if the collector threatens to have the debtor arrested for not paying their debt.
10. Collector’s can’t claim to be a lawyer e(a)(3)
The FDCPA explicitly states that collectors are not allowed to imply that they are an attorney or are conveying information from an attorney.
Final tip: You can negotiate paying your debt with collectors! At the end of the day collection agencies want to be paid. This is why some FDCPA compliant collectors are willing to negotiate with debtors to allow them to pay a lower amount that is feasible for the debtor.
Don’t like the “slack-fill” in your potato chip bag? Well, luckily for you, under the current Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA), you can sue for that! Plaintiffs’ attorneys have been filing “slack-fill” lawsuits in Missouri for years. For example, in 2016 a case was brought against Hershey for slack fill in Reese’s Pieces and Whoppers containers. The case survived a motion to dismiss by the Western District of Missouri under the MMPA despite the fact that packaging showed the amount in every serving, the number of servings, and the weight of the packaging. Ultimately, the plaintiff lost. The judge said the plaintiff was not really harmed because he knew about the “slack-fill” and bought the candies anyway. Frivolous cases like these clog the judicial system and do not serve to protect consumers.
Bills aimed at reforming the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act were proposed in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Senate Bill 276, introduced on January 17, 2019, would set up a “reliance standard,” which means that consumers must prove that the unlawful acts of businesses misled them into purchases, resulting in damages. Consumers who cannot prove causation may find their cases dismissed.
Consumers would also have to show that they acted reasonably during a transaction. A court may dismiss a claim where the claim fails to show a likelihood that the alleged unlawful act would mislead a reasonable consumer. Furthermore, consumers must show individual damages with sufficiently objective evidence to allow the loss to be calculated with a reasonable degree of certainty. The amount of recoverable damage would be determined by the consumer’s “out-of-pocket loss,” which the bill defined as the difference between what the consumer paid and what the market value of the product or service actually is.
The goal of the SB 276 is to prevent frivolous suits and promote a standard that exists in other states Proponents of the bill reason that the MMPA is currently so broad that it has opened the door for “junk lawsuits,” lining the pockets of trial attorneys instead of fulfilling its consumer protection mission.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has backed MMPA reform efforts for several years. Opponents of the bill are concerned that the proposed legislation would strip consumers of their ability to sue fraudulent businesses.
To read more about the rise of slack-fill cases, see: https://mobizmagazine.com/2018/04/20/slack-fill-cases-on-the-rise/
Bratton v. Hershey Co., 2:16-CV-4322-C-NKL, 2017 WL 2126864 (W.D. Mo. May 16, 2017).
Repairing Missouri’s Broken Consumer Protection Law, Missouri Business Headlines, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, https://mochamber.com/news/repairing-missouris-broken-consumer-protection-law/