• Consumer Protection Law and Advocacy — Chicago, IL

Homeowner Rights & Tenants Rights - Bardo Law PC

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Settles With DOJ

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The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program reached a national settlement with Wells Fargo over mortgage servicing complaints.  Announced yesterday, Wells Fargo will pay $81.6 million for its repeated failure to provide homeowners in bankruptcy with required payment change notices.  Even though Bankruptcy Rules require mortgage creditors to file and serve a notice before adjusting a Chapter 13 debtor’s monthly mortgage payment, Wells Fargo admits it failed to do so, impacting nearly 68,000 mortgage accounts.  Details of the settlement are available at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/us-trustee-program-reaches-816-million-settlement-wells-fargo-bank-na-protect-homeowners.

Homeowners will receive credits on their mortgage accounts, depending upon the mortgage balance, with an average result of $1,254 per homeowner.

Director Cliff White of the U.S. Trustee Program stated:

I am pleased that Wells Fargo has acted responsibly by accepting accountability for its deficient bankruptcy practices, agreed to compensate affected homeowners for those deficiencies and committed to making necessary improvements in its bankruptcy operations…When creditors fail to comply with the bankruptcy laws and rules, they compromise the integrity of the bankruptcy system and must be held accountable.  Transparency in the process is of paramount importance.  Homeowners in bankruptcy have the right to proper and timely notices, particularly when they are being asked to pay more.  The U.S. Trustee Program remains diligent in its effort to hold financial institutions that disregard the law accountable for their actions.

What if I get a Citation to Discover Assets?

Consumer Law Q&A: What happens after judgment?

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If you were sued on a consumer debt and a judgment is entered against you, Illinois law still provides you with rights to make sure that judgment is being collected fairly. One method a judgment creditor will use to try and collect from you is called a “Citation to Discover Assets.”

If you are served with a Citation, it is best to speak with an attorney first. Organizations such as CARPLS https://www.carpls.org/ and Illinois Legal Aid Online http://www.illinoislegalaidonline.org/ have resources available that may assist you. But here are some general tips.

If you receive a citation, you will be asked to appear in court on a particular date and discuss your assets. You may be asked to bring certain documents with you (such as pay stubs or tax returns). You will be asked questions such as: Do you own a home? A car? Do you work full-time? Do you have checking and savings accounts?

You must answer these questions honestly but if you feel like the collector is badgering you or going on a true “fishing expedition,” and asking irrelevant questions that do not have to do with your ability to pay the judgment, ask the Judge for help.

Also, if any of your income comes from Social Security, disability or child/spousal support, make sure to let the collector know right away. Unemployment compensation, public assistance benefits, veteran’s benefits, pensions, and other retirement benefits are some of the types of income and property that may be exempt from collection.

Remember – collectors cannot take more from you than the law allows so don’t be intimidated from exercising your rights to claim exemptions.

FTC Announces Fair Credit Settlement

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The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires companies to inform consumers if they are being offered less favorable credit terms than those offered to consumers with higher credit ratings.  The Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday that Sprint will pay $2.95 million in civil penalties to settle charges it did not give proper notice to lower credit score consumers who were charged an extra monthly fee.

According to the FTC’s complaint, certain Sprint customers were required to pay a monthly fee of $7.99 in addition to regularly imposed charges for cell phone and data services.

“Sprint failed to give many consumers required information about why they were placed in a more costly program, and when they did, the notice often came too late for consumers to choose another mobile carrier,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Under the settlement, Sprint must pay a $2.95 million penalty and provide certain notices going forward.  This decision highlights the importance of the Fair Credit Reporting Act as an information tool for consumers and is an effective cautionary tale for businesses.

National Consumer Law Center - Bardo Law PC

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act – “The Bona Fide Error Defense and Other Updates”

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Stacy Bardo is an invited speaker at the National Consumer Law Center’s annual FDCPA Conference, to be held in Miami, Florida on March 10-11, 2016.  Registration details available at https://www.nclc.org/conferences-training/fair-debt-collection-practices-conference.html.


National Consumer Law Center - Bardo Law PC

Wrongful debt? Bardo Law can help you deal with credit fraud, wrongful debt and defense.

How to Fight Wrongful Debt Collection

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Debt collection comes in many forms – phone calls, letters, text messages, lawsuits, and lines on your consumer credit report.  Not surprisingly, with today’s mobile society, you may even receive calls or texts intended for someone else and be facing a wrongful debt.

Here are some simple steps to follow

If you are being wrongly harassed for a debt that isn’t yours:

  • Tell the debt collector you are not the debtor
  • Ask the debt collector to send you proof of the debt — when you receive it, you’ll have the debt collector’s business address and/or fax number to send a letter back
  • Send a fax or certified mail letter explaining this is not your debt and all further collection conduct should cease
  • Check your credit report — if the unrecognized account appears, send a dispute letter to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion via certified mail
  • Send a copy of the credit report dispute letter to the debt collector
  • If this doesn’t work, or if you think you have been the victim of an identity theft, contact an attorney for further assistance

If you are receiving collection calls or text messages on your cell phone:

  • Tell the debt collector you are not the debtor
  • Advise the debt collector that he/she does not have authority to call your cell phone
  • Follow any opt-out instructions on a pre-recorded voice or text message
  • If the calls or texts continue, keep track of who is calling and the dates and times of the calls, and consult an attorney

If you have been served with a debt collection lawsuit:

  • Pay attention to all deadlines on the court papers and act before those deadlines pass
  • Do not ignore a court date even if you speak with the debt collector
  • Call an attorney — if you have been sued on a debt that isn’t yours, the court may order your fees and costs reimbursed
Arbitration rules are stacked against consumers

An Important Week for Consumers

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For more than a decade, big business has waged a battle against consumers — access to the courts. When we buy cell phones, apply for credit cards, and purchase vehicles, most of us are signing away our rights to file a lawsuit and have our dispute decided by a jury of our peers. How? These contracts we’re signing contain arbitration clauses that require us to file claims in front of arbitrators (not judges and juries), often paid by the businesses we are complaining about. Arbitrators’ decisions are not public record, access to discovery is limited, and it’s virtually impossible to appeal. What’s more, arbitration clauses often contain class action bans, meaning that you can’t ever file a claim seeking to represent other consumers who were similarly damaged.

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This week, we received some great news. After conducting a study on arbitration’s impact, the CFPB announced an initial proposal focused on prohibiting class action bans. Director Richard Cordray’s announcement can be read here:

Director Cordray’s remarks echo my own litigation experiences. I have unfortunately turned down numerous cases because of the expense, risk, and lack of transparency in arbitration.

We still have a long way to go to ensure access to justice and the courts. But this is an important step in the right direction.

New Mortgage Disclosures coming to help Americans

New Mortgage Disclosure Rules Coming…

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For years, consumer advocates have pushed for new, easier to understand disclosures. When you buy a home, the paperwork is overwhelming and, let’s be honest, almost impossible to understand. When you’re presented with papers at a real estate closing, there is never sufficient time to read, review, and process the mountain of documents you’re being asked to sign. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau understood this problem and has announced new guidelines. Visit http://www.consumerfinance.gov/know-before-you-owe/

“The CFPB’s mortgage initiative is designed to help consumers understand their loan options, shop for the mortgage that’s best for them, and avoid costly surprises at the closing table.”Homeowner Rights and Tenant Rights - Consumer Law at Bardo Law

“Consumers will face less stress when applying for most mortgages after October 3, when our new disclosure rule takes effect. The new rule and disclosures ease the process of taking out a mortgage, help you save money, and ensure you know before you owe.”

Ask A Consumer Lawyer - Bardo Law PC

Consumer Law Q&A: What if I can’t afford an attorney?

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Over the years, I’ve spoken with many consumers who want to hire an attorney but assume they can’t afford to hire one.  This couldn’t be further from true.  Many consumer protection statutes have “fee-shifting” provisions within them.  What does that mean?  Well, in simple terms, it means the company we sue may have to pay your attorney’s fees and costs in addition to the money they pay to you.  As explained by the American Bar Association:

Fee-shifting statutes and rules vary, sometimes requiring the loser in a legal matter to pay for the legal fees and costs of the prevailing party. But in some circumstances, the fees are unilaterally shifted so that losing defendants must pay the plaintiff’s reasonable attorney fees and costs. These provisions are designed to attract lawyers to public interest cases that otherwise would not seem worth the investment. The “American Rule” requires each party to bear its own attorney’s fees in litigation absent a statutory or contractual exception. Fee-shifting provisions are the exceptions to that general rule. The clients do not pay advance fees or retainers; attorneys collect payments through the fee-shifting provision or a settlement agreement. The threat of paying attorney’s fees can add pressure to the opposing party to settle the case and settle it quickly.

If you have a claim, and that claim can be brought under a fee-shifting consumer statute (such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or Fair Credit Reporting Act, to name just a few), your attorneys can seek approval of a reasonable fee from the court or from your opponent, not from you.  So don’t hesitate to call an attorney just because you think you won’t be able to pay  him or her.  Both Congress and the Illinois legislature anticipated this problem, and passed laws to prevent it.

CFPB scores a win for consumers

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CFPB scores a win for consumers - Financially vulnerable consumers have for years been the target of businesses promising debt relief. This month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) scored an important victory against several such entities. A federal district court in Florida granted the CFPB's request for an injunction, which includes an asset freeze, a receiver appointment, and disablement of the companies' websites.