Mo. Attorney General announces new plans for protection against abusive debt collectors

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If debt collectors are calling you daily, you might soon get some relief.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster plans to announce new efforts Thursday afternoon to protect individuals from abusive collection tactics.

There are no state laws in Missouri to protect individuals from the heavies trying to get the money that is owed – only federal laws.

According to research by Pew Charitable Trusts, eight out of ten Americans have some sort of debt – whether credit card, student loans or a mortgage. Koster’s office adds that minorities are often the main target of debt collectors because according to research, they tend to owe more than whites.

In his letter to the Commission, Koster outlined three proposed amendments to Missouri’s rules of civil court procedure aimed at curbing abusive litigation practices:

  1. Require debt collectors to produce documentary proof at the outset of litigation establishing their right to pursue collection of the debt in question.  This would help prevent invalid lawsuits.
  1. Preclude debt buyers from manipulating court procedures with stalling tactics in which they repeatedly request consumers to appear in court hoping to obtain a default judgment the first time the consumer misses a court date.  This tactic permits debt collectors to recover on debt without presenting evidence to the court or allowing the targeted consumer to challenge that evidence.  The proposed change would protect consumers by limiting the circumstances in which a default judgment could be granted.
  1. Strengthen the proof needed before creditors can recover for attorneys’ fees and litigation costs by requiring that creditors’ attorneys attest that the fees sought were contractually authorized, necessary, and actually performed to recover on the debt, and that costs claimed were legitimate.   This would temper unjustified and excessive awards of attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.

“These proposed changes would provide important protections for consumers from the Wild West world of debt-collection by forestalling abusive litigation practices, including frivolous litigation.  I believe these reforms would also serve as an important step toward eliminating the disparate impact of debt-collection litigation on minorities who become targets of such litigation,” Koster said in a statement.

Missourians who believe they have been subjected to unfair debt-collection practices should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-392-8222 or file a complaint online at ago.mo.gov.

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