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CFO Sink Urges Better Protections against Abusive Debt Collectors

1/26/2010

CONTACT: Kyra Jennings or Kevin Cate, (850) 413-2842

Proposals include harsher penalties, more regulation, and better enforcement

TALLAHASSEE – Florida CFO Alex Sink today reiterated her call for changes that would create better protections for Floridians against abusive debt collectors, unveiling draft legislation and asking for the Florida Cabinet to come together to recommend tough, comprehensive reforms to the Florida Legislature at their next meeting.

After learning last year about thousands of consumer complaints that were not being acted on, CFO Sink proposed a series of changes that would create stronger regulation, harsher penalties, and real protection for Florida’s consumers. Following her initial call for changes in November, CFO Sink is now urging lawmakers to consider her proposals to protect Florida’s consumers in the upcoming legislative session.

“Clear, common-sense changes are needed to better protect Florida’s consumers against these abusive debt collector practices,” said CFO Sink. “The law currently protects debt collectors – not Florida’s citizens – and this needs to be changed immediately.”

Legislative changes proposed by CFO Sink would include:

• Removing obstacles to investigate debt collectors – Removes current requirements of five complaints in a single year before an abusive collector can be investigated, instead allowing the state to address single complaints of violations on behalf of consumers.  Also gives the state the authority to investigate alleged violations of law, including access to licensee books and records.

• Creating harsher penalties for abusive debt collectors – Increases the penalty for unlicensed activity from a misdemeanor to a felony; increases the allowable penalties from $1,000 to $5,000 per violation; and, allows the state to deny, suspend or revoke a license if a debt collector is found to have broken the law.

• Making it easier for Floridians to get help -- Removes the requirement that complaints against abusive debt collectors be notarized, allowing Floridians to be easier assisted by phone, e-mail or mail.

• Expanding Attorney General’s power to bring action – Allows the Attorney General to bring an action under the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act against a consumer debt collection agency, an out-of-state debt collector, or an exempt debt collector, as requested by the Attorney General in November 2009.

Consumers who have been victims of abusive debt collector practices should contact the Florida Office of Financial Regulation at 1-800-848-3782 or visit http://www.flofr.com/Director/complaints.htm.