Cracking Down on Deceptive Bill Collectors

In Olympia, lawmakers are targeting a deceptive, and often confusing, practice that’s become popular with some bill collectors. Dan Frizzell from the Washington State House Democratic Caucus has more.

Consumer-protection laws in Washington prohibit bill collectors from a number of shady tactics — unreasonably pestering debtors, shaming them by airing their financial laundry in the paper, or misrepresenting themselves as they go about their business.  But lawmakers want to add another to that list: a practice called “pocket service,” where collectors send a letter designed to fool consumers into thinking there’s been a court filing when there really hasn’t.    Representative Christine Kilduff, the University Place Democrat who introduced the bipartisan bill, explains:

KILDUFF: “There’s consumer confusion when a consumer receives a summons and complaint that is not marked with a court case number. So consumers will not pursue it any further and they and up with a default judgment. They should have an opportunity to understand that there is a real, live court case, and then they need to take that seriously and then contest it if they so choose.”

Kilduff’s pocket-service bill had a public hearing last week and is set for a vote of the full House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee this Friday. In Olympia, I’m Dan Frizzell.