Oregon 'debt buyer' crackdown heads to governor's desk

Also sets new rules for debt collectors they hire

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon Senate on Wednesday passed House Bill 2356, clearing the way for the landmark consumer legislation setting new rules for debt buyers to go to the governor for her signature, said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

Unfair debt collection practices have scored near the top of the Oregon attorney general's list of frequent consumer complaints for decades. Yet until now, debt buyers, or those who buy debt for "pennies on the dollar" from the actual creditors, have gotten away with suing alleged debtors without providing basic information or even ensuring the debt is owed to the individual being sued.

 Consumers get confused when they do not recognize the debt and fail to defend themselves in court, even if a debt collector sues the wrong person.  Suing the wrong person or for the wrong amount can impact consumers – wages can be garnished, credit scores can be significantly damaged, and it can take years to set records straight.

The bill has already passed out of the Oregon House. 

“Many Oregonians legitimately do owe debt, but if their debt is sold to a debt buyer, who then sues to collect the debt, the consumer should be able to easily identify the source of the original debt," said Rosenblum. “This new law is about transparency, fairness and justice for all in the consumer marketplace."

HB 2356 would ensure that lawsuits filed against Oregonians by debt buyers (or debt collectors on behalf of debt buyers) are accurate and include this information:

·         The original creditor’s name

·         A way to contact the new debt buyer

·         The last four digits of the original creditor’s account

·         The date and amount of the last payment

·         An itemized list of charges and fees imposed

Under the bill, consumers may also ask the debt collector for documents to prove that they owe the debt.  The debt collector then must stop collection until they produce the documents within 30 days. This bill would also make it a violation to file a lawsuit knowing that the debt is past the statute of limitations. 

The bill was the product of work by the Oregon Department of Justice, Representative Paul Holvey, the Oregon Law Center, the Debt Collector’s Association, Encore, the Oregon Judicial Department and the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services. 

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