Philadelphia Consumer Protection Law Blog

Beware the coming flood of flood-damaged used cars

It might seem that Philadelphia consumers would be safe from unscrupulous car dealers trying to peddle vehicles damaged by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but don't count on it. Though the flood damage occurred mainly in Texas and Florida, there will be car dealers across the country trying to unloaded cars, pick-ups and SUVs that were flooded by the historic storms.

A recent news article offers advice on how to avoid auto dealer fraud and flooded cars.

A quick look at an ongoing problem: auto dealer fraud

Just about everyone is excited over the purchase of an automobile. Whether the purchase is of a new car or a used vehicle, it means you have new wheels with which to drive around Philadelphia and beyond.

That elation can sour when a car buyer finds out that they have been a victim of auto dealer fraud, however. The deceptions by unscrupulous dealers can involve new and used cars both, but in all cases it means that the buyer is on the hook -- unless they take legal action.

Making a debt collector obey the law

If a Philadelphia police officer sees you roll your car through a stoplight, you will get a traffic ticket. You are also prohibited by law from taking what you like from a grocery store without paying for the items.

Likewise, debt collectors' tactics are limited by a law called the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. That 1977 consumer protection legislation prevents collectors from harassing and abusing people in the course of debt collection.

Federal appeals court applies brakes to debt collection agencies

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit serves Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. A recent opinion issued by the court in a debt collection case could well have a positive impact on Philadelphia consumers.

The court said that a second debt collection letter sent to a consumer within 30 days of the initial letter "overshadowed and contradicted" the first letter. Those who have received one of those first letters know that it states the amount the collector claims you owe and contains a notice that you have 30 days in which to dispute the claim in writing.

Will Ford's credit change make car repossessions rise?

A lot of Philadelphia drivers are looking forward in these last days of summer to the day when the Ford Motor Company releases its 2018 vehicles to dealers. The company is coy about the exact date of the release, saying only that will happen in fall.

Here's why it matters: Ford Motor's financing unit is changing its credit approval process in a bid to pump up flagging sales. The new approval process is expected to make more people eligible for loans, even though the company is reporting a rising loan loss rate. The bottom line for consumers could well be easier credit which then leads to more auto repossessions.

Understanding what debt collectors can and cannot do

When your phone rings, you wonder if it's your BFF, your mom or maybe your boss calling. But when you pick your phone up, the number is unfamiliar. The voice on the other end is just as unfamiliar and begins explaining that you owe money. And asking when you are going to pay off your debt.

A recent newspaper article on debt collection urges those who get a call from a debt collector to resist the urge to panic, and instead "take a deep breath" and "learn about what collection agencies can and can’t do."

Abusive debt collector: "Get out of my face!"

When the 29-year-old recently walked out of a courthouse, she held an umbrella to try to keep a TV camera crew from getting images of her face. She and her companion repeatedly told the reporter to "get out of my face" and said she would not answer any questions.

Perhaps it doesn't matter if she answers questions outside of a courtroom. Inside the court, she admitted that she had been part of a debt collection scheme that relied on abusive tactics to coerce people into paying; sometimes when they did not even owe any money.

Crackdown on two abusive, phony debt collectors

The Federal Trade Commission is the federal government's consumer protection agency. As such, the FTC recently announced that it has obtained court orders to freeze assets and stop two businesses from posing as legitimate debt collection agencies in pursuit of genuine debts.

The agency said that two men pretended to be attorneys would try to collect on debts that people did not owe, threatening them with lawsuits and arrest if they did not pay up. Unfortunately, even some authentic debt collectors use abusive tactics, issuing similar threats to people who might or might not owe money.

Risks and rewards in used car buying

Over the past several years, the Philadelphia economy has gotten mixed reviews. Some aspects of the economy have been strong while others could use a bit more beefing up. For the average person, the spotty news means that it is often wise to keep the belt tight, especially when making major purchases such as automobiles.

For many car shoppers, it makes the most sense to purchase a used car. The New York Times recently listed the pros and cons of various types of used-car sellers, cautioning that making a poor choice can too often result in auto repossession.

A man of many disguises and one consumer scam

He was sometimes a government official, sometimes an investigator and sometimes an FBI agent. Sometimes when he called people on the phone, he would tell them that he was sending a police officer to arrest them and sometimes he claimed that he would come and do it personally.

Though his stories and personas frequently changed, the goal was always the same, say federal prosecutors: to wring as much money as possible out of people by using abusive debt collection practices.

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