According to the Dallas Observer, the conversation with the company’s collection agency, Equinox Financial Management Solutions, went like this:
"Can you garnish my wages if I don't pay?" he asked.
"Yes," the voice on the other end of the line said.
"Can you put a lien on my house?"
Wrong answers. Turns out, Texas consumer rights laws are some of the most consumer-friendly in the country. And according to a federal consumer protection law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors are prohibited from threatening legal action that would violate state laws. In this case, garnishing wages or putting a lien on Cunningham's house would violate the Texas Debt Collection Act.
Cunningham took the debt collection agency to court and won a judgment and a $1,000 payment. He spent more time digging into the language on key consumer protection laws like the FDCPA, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Soon after he filed 15 successful lawsuits involving:
- Pre-recorded calls to his cell phone (a TCPA violation).
- The failure of collection agencies to look into his claims that his file was inaccurate (a violation of the FCRA).
- Abusive practices by collectors (a violation of the FDCPA).
With Americans behind on $2.5 trillion worth of debt at the start of 2010, according to the Federal Reserve, expect an army of Craig Cunninghams to emerge from the debt debris of the past few years and strike back against hostile bill collectors.
Collection agencies won’t like it one bit, but increasingly angry consumers who are tired of the phone calls and the veiled threats may see it differently.
They might want to make room for one more hero on Mount Rushmore.
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