Al Franken Wants To Put An End To Abuse By Debt Collectors

A few months after Minnesota Senator Al Franken convinced the FTC to look into the practice of debt collectors having arrest warrants issued for people with less than $100 in debt, the former SNL star announced that he will be introducing legislation to put an end to some of the collection industry’s more abusive practices.

According to reports, the End Debt Collector Abuse Act proposes the following:
• Prohibit debt collectors from seeking arrest warrants to collect on debts.
• Give consumers the information they need to protect themselves from unscrupulous debt collectors.
• Require debt collectors to conduct thorough investigations when consumers dispute the debt.
• Increase penalties on debt collectors who break the law to discourage them from employing bad practices.
• Allow judges to provide injunctive relief to consumers when debt collectors continue to violate their rights as specified under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Said the former SNL star:

Debt collectors often use deceptive and aggressive tactics, sometimes going after debts that have already been paid or even targeting the wrong person. This bill will protect consumers, keep debt collectors honest, and stop the misuse of law enforcement resources for private profit.

Franken is expected to formally introduce the bill later this week.

Sen. Franken introduces legislation to end debt collector abuse []

Thanks to aweirdguy for the tip!


Edit Your Comment

  1. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Does that include the U.S. Government?

    • waltcoleman says:

      Of course not. Government always exempts itself from the rules and laws it imposes on everyone else.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        really? Please provide the documentation that shows the U.S. government is exempt from federal laws, because I had no idea they could do that.

        • Aedilis says:

          The United States enjoys Sovereign Immunity. You can’t go after the US Government unless they say it is ok for you to do so.

          • Tim says:

            And you know who can change that? You. It’s a democracy, so the people make the government. The government only has sovereign immunity because the people made it so, and the people can change that at any time they want.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            That doesn’t equal not being subject to the laws. That would be referring to consequences of laws broken.

            In few circumstances would someone actually benefit from suing the U.S. government directly. Usually the appropriate action is to sue a specific arm of the government.

            That provision was included because it’s not in anyone’s interest to have your government wasting it’s time in court defending itself from anyone who wished to waste its time.

            It’s the best example you could have provided, however, and I admit I hadn’t thought of that particular bylaw.

          • Daemon Xar says:

            Except for the fact that they’ve waived that all over the place for U.S. citizens . . . see, for example, FOIA, the APA, the Federal Tort Claims Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Equal Access to Justice Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Civil Rights legislation, etc.

            Or, just for fun, any claim based on the U.S. Constitution. About the only time the U.S. successfully asserts sovereign immunity is when being sued by a member of the military or a foreign citizen (and not even then for many kinds of lawsuits). States or federally recognized Tribes are FAR more likely to assert sovreign immunity than the federal government.

            • Tim in Wyoming says:

              Oh and do the Tribes love to push that sovereign immunity. Any business dealings I have with tribal governments requires them to sign a waiver of sovereign immunity or I do not do business with them. One tribe in particular loves to not pay bills and fall through on contracts. When I mention legal action they laugh and tell me I can’t do anything about it… until I remind them of that paper they signed. This allows me to pursue matters outside of tribal court. If you have ever dealt with tribal courts, you’ll know what I am talking about.

        • Erik Hughes says:

          “The Obama administration invoked the state secrets privilege last weekend in an effort to dismiss a federal lawsuit challenging the government’s alleged plan to kill a U.S. citizen abroad.”

          State sponsored assassinations being covered up by ‘state secrets’. Did we actually win the cold war?

    • RvLeshrac says:

      You know, if you don’t like paying for this country’s services, you have the freedom to renounce your citizenship and leave.

      • kc2idf says:

        …but it takes more courage to stick around and fix it.

      • Pinkbox says:

        I guess that means our government needs to up and leave our country too.

      • Gandalf the Grey says:

        Well yes, but first you have to pay a $500 fee to renounce your citizenship……

      • Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

        Hah! It was a joke. Lighten up.

        I’m a veteran and I love this country. One of the reasons I love it is because we have the freedom to question how it’s run (and poke fun of it on occasion). ;-D

      • TasteyCat says:

        What services? Most of my money seems to be going to the poorest 51% of the country.

        • Conformist138 says:

          Yeah, you don’t have paved roads, lit streets, public parks/libraries/schools, fire departments, police departments, or really anything at all for your tax money. Clearly, they just steal every cent and hand it out to those gross poor people who live lives of luxury.

          I’m in the lowest 30% in terms of income but get nothing, no matter how difficult life gets. no help with rent or groceries, no help with medical or dental costs which means i just dont get medical care. I can’t even get a discount on my bus pass, which is now up to $90/mo. and, i still pay all my taxes and student loans. Maybe you can quit your bitching since you are clearly above the average income level in the country. Feel blessed.

          • TasteyCat says:

            I’ve got paved roads and lit streets. Of course, since I live in MA, I get the privilege of paying for the Mass Pike and the $22 billion con that was the Big Dig.

            Library? It’s 2010. I haven’t used a school in years either. Or a park.

            I guess the fire and police departments may potentially be useful sometimes. Not that the IRS funds them.

            Considering my tax rate is about 30% higher than it would be if I were to live in, say, the Czech Republic, but the service levels really aren’t that much better, I feel bitching is fair.

      • Puddy Tat says:

        This country’s services are going down the tubes – so I would like a refund and while I am at it all those teenage kids getting pregnant have their both their parents foot the bill from now on!

    • Consumeristing says:

      I lol’ed.

  2. InsomniacZombie says:

    For being a commedian before his Senate career, the man has certainly taken a no-nonsense and intelligent approach to his new position. I’m impressed.

    • FatLynn says:

      Yes, he seems to be one of the most progressive people in Congress.

    • apd09 says:

      that’s because to Mr. Franken he is not so much interested in being a politician as he is in being a politician who actually does work. He would rather get reelected because of the work he does, than want to get reelected for the security of a long term job.

      Many politicians are too concerned with rocking the boat and toe the party line whereas Mr. Franken is more concerned with the government actually doing something and to hell with what his colleagues think because he is not looking to be a long term candidate and rise up through the party ranks.

      • working class Zer0 says:

        Nicely said APD09, I feel the same way. When Frankin was elected I was a little unsure about his politics , but he continues to impress me with the direction he is taking.

    • kc2idf says:

      I think that this is because comedians are often in the business of ridiculing the ridiculous. Based on that, I would actually like to see Leo Gallagher, Lewis Black, Robin Williams, and Dennis Leary (and maybe some others) all run for office.

    • dolemite says:

      Well, it’s strange you mention an “intelligent approach”. With a few exceptions, most comedians are far more intelligent than your average person, and certainly more intelligent than the majority of congress, who happen to be clowns, yet aren’t funny.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        I read in Scientific American Mind that funny people tend to be more intelligent, which would make sense. You have to be quick witted to think of some of the things they come up with.

    • Alisha Gray says:

      If you read any of his political books (Lies and the Lying Liars who tell them: a Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, for instance) he tends to balance his humor with a solid dose of facts and analysis. He’s been toning back on the humor since being elected, but his political savvyness goes WAY back.

  3. BobOki says:

    Is it just me, Franken, Colbert, Stewart… do we REALLY have to hire comedians and actors to actually get real honest work done in our govt? Does it take (on screen only please) phonies (comedians actors et al) to try to push common sense, our own elected officials now being so far from their constituents they may as well be shot into space for all the notice we will have?
    It is a sad, sad day when the guys that make the funny for a living do a better job than a lifer senator.

    Bravo Franken, keep it up, and keep this type of funny coming.

    • Talisker says:

      Comedians are probably smarter because they see the connections between things in a way that others might not. I’ve long believed that a sense of humor is a great predictor for intelligence.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Comedians live outside the politican spectrum. In fact, their job is point out what’s wrong with the political spectrum. Their success in their comedic endeavor is based on how much we, as an audience, agree with their quips. So, they have a very clear idea of what the populace believes is wrong, and thus good ideas on how to fix it.

    • veg-o-matic says:

      Quality satire done by the likes of Stew-beef, Colbert, Franken, etc.. requires serious smarts, attention to detail, and sharp, quick thinking.

      • apd09 says:

        don’t forget about a team of writers. Stewart, Colbert, etc… get a list of jokes, observations, and other points that they then work with writers to craft jokes.

    • Slave For Turtles says:

      The king’s court jester was the only one who really got to speak the truth. I guess some things never change.

    • valthun says:

      “It is a sad, sad day when the guys that make the funny for a living do a better job than a lifer senator.”

      You said it right there. “lifer senator” these people have so much power they are corrupted because there aren’t term limits on them. To get fresh perspective and change we need term limits on all offices of government.

  4. Buckus says:

    I’m waiting for him to broadcast live from the Senate with his one-man broadcast setup.

  5. nova3930 says:

    “Prohibit debt collectors from seeking arrest warrants to collect on debts.”

    So basically as I understand the issue, he wants to undermine the legitimate legal power of the courts ie prohibit courts from issuing arrest warrants when people don’t comply with court orders to pay up in debt cases.

    Sorry but that is not a good idea, no matter the context. At the point you can’t even use the courts to enforce contractual obligations, said contracts aren’t worth wiping your a$$ with.

    • sullivanftw says:

      I thought we got away from debtor’s prison when the US declared independence from the UK? The way I see it, obtaining arrest warrants for debtors that can’t pay their debts is essentially creating a pseudo-debtors prison.

      Why isn’t a lien against someone’s personal property (if they have any) and/or ruining the creditworthiness of an individual (if they had any to begin with) enough? Debt-issuing companies take the risk that people won’t pay their bills. Debt-purchasing companies pay pennies on the dollar in the hopes that someone will pay an “uncollectable” account. That is the risk they take by purchasing or encouraging risky debt.

      • nova3930 says:

        The individual takes a few risks in there too.

        Whether you want to pay or can’t pay, debts are still legally enforceable contracts.

        If you don’t pay, you run the risk of being sued.

        If you don’t show up to court or defy the court orders in said case, you run the risk of ending up in jail at least until the trial is done.

        If you don’t want to go to jail, show the hell up to court….

        • palfas says:

          You continually refuse to acknowledge that the shady debt collectors will do everything in their power to prevent you from showing up to court so they can get a contempt charge against you.

          Once you are in contempt and arrested, you pay bail to get out of jail. That bail money is then turned over to the shady debt collector. The debt collector has now won with out ever actually having to go to trial and argue their case. This is a complete distortion of the justice system. You where arrested, lost your money, and never got a chance to argue your side of the case in court.

          What if this was not a legitimate debt. The collector now has your money and have an arrest record and you stand little to no chance of ever getting either of those things changed.

          Short version: You can’t show up to court if you where never told, the debt collector will purposefully try not to tell you, you get arrested and end up paying the debt without a trial.

          • PunditGuy says:

            You and about a half dozen other people keep insisting that the plaintiff is responsible for notifying the defendant about a summons — which seems ridiculous on its face, but I’ll grant that different jurisdictions may have different rules. This one is particularly asinine, however, as you could simply countersue the debt agency for eleventy billion dollars and then misplace the summons paperwork.

    • BettyCrocker says:

      Do you think that people should be put in jail if they can’t pay their debt?

      • kc2idf says:

        <div class="sarcasm">Well, yeah, that makes them so much more able to pay!</div>

      • nova3930 says:

        No but I think people who don’t show up at their court hearings should be throw in jail for contempt of court, regardless of the content of the case….

    • SkokieGuy says:

      Despite your efforts to be against this (I’m sure Fraken being a Dem is completely unrelated, right?) do you think it is a good use of your tax dollars for not only the courts, but also law enforcement to arrest someone over a debt? Especially if under $100.00?

      Think of all the costs and overhead associated with an arrest, no doubt in the thousands (of taxpayer money) to assist a private collection firm in collecting a civil debt? That’s fiscally prudent?

      • PunditGuy says:

        I voted for Franken, and I have some concerns similar to Nova’s.

        My understanding is that, despite the headlines in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and here on Consumerist, nobody is being put in jail for their debt — they’re in jail because of contempt of court. If you don’t show up after being summoned to a hearing about your debt, the court can issue a warrant.

        I’m not sure that particular power should be curtailed just because the matter is ultimately about debt. It’s certainly worth a conversation rather than a knee-jerk “partisanship” response.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          The ends don’t justify the means.

          You made the point in your response: the contempt is in regards to a debt.

          An alternative if you don’t want extensive legislation: require that debt collectors issue court hearings to debters via county sheriff. This gives accountability to the city rather than to the organizing who benefits from misplaced court summons.

          • PunditGuy says:

            I asked above of someone else, but I’ll ask you too — you live in a place where the plaintiff in a civil action is tasked with delivering a summons? Where is that? That’s got to stop.

            • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

              They can use outside agencies. But I’m pretty sure anyone can become a deliverer of summons.

              But the court should know before the contempt is placed why they did not show up if it is due to the summons not being properly delivered.

              • PunditGuy says:

                Who is “they” — the court or the plaintiff? I can’t imagine a situation where you’d allow the plaintiff to be responsible for this… otherwise, Verizon could sue AT&T any time it wanted and just not bother sending AT&T the notice. iPhones for everyone! Default judgment FTW!

                • ARP says:

                  Well those who have the money have lawyers can argue on their behalf about the adequacy of the service. However, if you can’t afford a lawyer, it becomes more difficult. Also, how do you make that argument from jail? During the initial pleading? So you need to spend a day or two in jail just to prove that you never got notice?

        • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

          If you were in contempt of court, I would agree. But many of the complaints are from people saying they never even received a court notice. If there isn’t even a system to ensure that the proper parties received the court notice… who is to say they aren’t abusing the system? And what happened to setting the bail at a reasonable amount? If you had a $75 debt, were never notified of a court date and you were dragged off to jail only to find them saying your bail was the exact amount of your debt– it seems shady, and like debtor’s jail to me. If you don’t show up to court, then maybe the judge should make a judgement and then the company can garnish your wages.

      • nova3930 says:

        The only person bringing political party into this is you. Its the mark of someone quite intellectually limited to immediately assume that any criticism of a proposed policy, regardless of content, is predicated on partisanship.

        As for me, I have about as much use for Democrats as I do Republicans, which is to say none. One is the evil party and the other is the stupid party and you can take your pick as to which is which dependent upon the situation….

        It doesn’t matter if you are I think its a good use of my tax dollars or not. All entities are guaranteed access to the courts for mediation of civil disputes, including settlement of debts. I would even point you to the 7th Amendment which guarantees not only access to the court, but a trial by jury in matters over $20.

        The alternative to mediation of civil disputes by the courts, is we go killing each other in the streets the way people in some third world countries do. I swear as much as the liberals in this country want the gov’t to intrude on anything and everything, they sure don’t like it when the gov’t is actually doing one of its right and proper jobs as intended….

        • Puckstopperga says:

          You really shouldn’t insult someone’s intelligence only to follow it up with several grammatical errors.

          Glass houses and all…

    • ShruggingGalt says:

      I think the bill should prohibit judges from ever applying bail to an outstanding debt. I thought that was part of the problem.

      The warrants were being issued for no-show at debtor hearings where you have to tell a judge that you have no money.

      Then the judges were holding you in jail until the hearing (months later) unless you paid bail, which happened to be the amount owed to the debt collector.

      The process will end if the bail is to be refunded in full to the debtor and is exempt from collection…….

      • jbandsma says:

        One of the problems here is that some collections agencies are notorious for either not notifying the debtor of a hearing (or making sure the notification doesn’t get there until AFTER the date) and then using that as the vehicle to get an arrest warrant. The judge has no way of knowing that the debtor wasn’t informed. None of the collection agencies send these notifications certified or needing a return receipt.

        • nova3930 says:

          At least where I’m at, the court notifies individuals when a civil action is being taken against them. In places where the court does not do this, there are laws as to the length of time before hearing and manner of notification that must be complied with.

          If either the court is not performing notifications properly or the debt collector is not serving notice correctly, then those issue need to be addressed, but the proper way to do that is NOT by passing a law that strips the courts of their primary means of enforcing compliance with their orders.

          • ARP says:

            OK- how about this. No prison for persons who are not personally served (i.e. no certified mail, no newspaper posting, etc.) related to a debt collection action.

          • ARP says:

            You’re assuming the debt collector is acting in good faith in attempting to find and serve the debtor (or have the court do it). You’d be assuming wrong.

        • PunditGuy says:

          A civil court summons is the responsibility of the plaintiff? Where do you live?

          • bwcbwc says:

            In one case, we found out about a civil action because we started getting direct mail ads from lawyers offering to “help you with your current litigation”. We weren’t served for another two weeks after that, with about a day to spare.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Debters prisons are outlawed. Do you believe that is wrong?

      • Aedilis says:

        I will be glad to debate your position on debtor’s prison. I will give you the benefit of positing your argument first.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Sure. I think the basic premise of eliminating debtor’s prisons is that if you go to jail for not being able to pay a debt, you pretty much are guaranteed to NEVER be able to pay the debt back. You could, in theory, be forced to work while jailed to pay off the debt, but that is tantamount to slavery.

          The goal is to get the debter to pay the debt. Putting the debter in jail doesn’t do the creditor any good since his goal is to receive is money back, not seek jailtime. This is why garnishments were implemented. It forces a reasonable portion of the debter’s income will be applied to his debts.

          So, if you can provided a reasonable reason why debter’s prisons work for anyone, I’d like to hear it.

          • TuxthePenguin says:

            First, this isn’t debtor’s prison. You are not going to jail because you are in debt. You are going to jail because you refused to show up to court as required. That requirement is the same whether it is civil or criminal. Actually, if you ignore jury summons you can also be thrown in jail.

            But that aside… even if you are thrown in jail for not accepting the courts demands, you don’t have the pay bail. You can just sit there until the term is up (in Texas I think its three days). Sure, that will cause some problems, but you did bring this on yourself for NOT SHOWING UP TO COURT.

            It’s really simple – if you are told to show up to court, show up to court!

            • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

              I’m afraid you failed to read what the post was about. I was asked to defend the abolition of debter’s prisons. Not the merits of Al Frankin’s cause or the specifics of this issue.

            • ARP says:

              What if I never received notice that I was supposed to show up to court? Sleazy debt collectors send summons to old addresses, don’t try to find the person, etc. and then simply print the notice in an obscure paper.

              So you’re saying I should go to prison about a failing to follow a court order that I didn’t know about regarding a lawsuit that I didn’t know about?

    • dolemite says:

      So…if people can’t pay their debt, the right place for them is jail? Utterly ridiculous. The US has only 5% of the world’s population, yet we have 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. We lock more people away for more things than any other country in the world. And do we have the lowest crime rate? HAH! Jail is intended to keep rapists, murderers, etc from preying on the rest of us. Not to lock away pot heads, bankrupt people or guys that hack the comcast webpage (some young dudes actually got almost 2 years in prison and like 80k in fines for replacing the comcast homepage with a shoutout to their friends). CRAZY.

      • TuxthePenguin says:

        People are not placed in jail for being in debt.

        They are placed in jail for ignoring court notices. If the court tells you to show up, you show up. Period. You can be thrown in jail for consistently ignoring jury summons as well.

        • perruptor says:

          And if the court notice is delivered to a place you used to live, but not to the place you live now, you’ll happily go to jail, because you “ignored” that notice?

      • nova3930 says:

        No, jail is not the right place for debtors, but it is the right place for people who do not comply with court orders, regardless of the details of the underlying case.

        This nation is built on the concept of “Rule of Law” and the power of courts to make and enforce orders is one of the primary ways this concept is implemented….

        • ARP says:

          You mean the court notice that’s printed some obscure paper? Many debt collectors don’t try to find out a persons true a address so they don’t actually have to serve the debtor. That’s the whole point- they’re sleazy and can’t be trusted to act in good faith.

          Now if a person were properly served and didn’t show up, you may have an argument.

          • nova3930 says:

            I’m sorry but I’m completely unaware of ANY jurisdiction that allows for process service via newspaper posting.

            Most jurisdictions require the papers be served by either an officer of the court or a licensed private process server. In my state, papers can be sent by the court by mail but only via certified signature mail.

            My wife and I were sued two years ago because our home builder didn’t pay for the appliances in our home before he went tits up. We received two notices of the lawsuit, one for each of us via certified mail, that were very clear about where and how we had to respond.

            • ARP says:

              Are you a lawyer? Almost every state has a rule for service by publication.

              Alaska: Rule 106
              California: Section 736
              Missouri: Rule 54
              Illinois: Section 5/1-109
              Florida: Chapter 49
              South Carolina: TItle 15, Chapter 9
              New York: Rule 316
              George 4-203

              I can keep going….

        • Trick says:

          And of course a scumbag collection agency that already thumbs its nose at the law would never claim that is sent notice of court proceedings without actually doing so, right?

        • kmw2 says:

          Compliance with court orders requires that someone knows about the court order. Debt collectors that use the court system to collect debts go out of their way to make sure that people do not know about the court order, and then use an overloaded, inattentive, and sometimes corrupt legal system to collect their debt improperly in one whack. It’s just like hiring Joe from down the street to go around their place with a baseball bat, only it’s actually Officer Joe and he has a badge and doesn’t need a baseball bat. It’s an improper and corrupt practice that one cannot deal with simply by doing what one is told, because one is _not_ told – that’s the point. It is not possible to comply with a court order that one does not know about, and debt collectors go out of their way to make sure people don’t know about them.

        • Gulliver says:

          Your assumptions are based on the mistaken notion that debt collectors and process servers follow the law. Take this example; I sell myself as a process server to ABC collections. They agree to pay me $100. I knock on the door, nobody is there. I sign a sheet of p[aper that says I properly served them. I get my $100. ABC collections presents my signature saying I properly served them. Judge says, THEY DIDN’T SHOW UP ARREST THEM.
          What Franken has said is for small amounts (under $100), jail is not the way to go. This is another example of allowing private businesses (debt collection and process servers) to do whatever the hell they want. I believe without fail that the debt collection business should be closed. If you owe a debt to Comcast, Comcast is responsible for ALL collection activities. No other party should be allowed to “buy” debt.

    • Brontide says:

      We’re not talking about enforcing contracts here. The collections agencies are using the courts to do the collection *for them*.

      They get an arrest warrant if you miss one hearing, make the judge set the bail for the disputed amount, and then the bail is turned over to the collections agency. This is not due process it’s a loophole being used as a sledgehammer to force payment. They have re-invented the debtors prison.

      • nova3930 says:

        Enforcing contracts is exactly what this is about.

        When the other party to a contract won’t comply with the terms willingly, the courts are the only avenue for the other party to seek restitution. When you strip the court of their ability to force compliance then the courts have no power and the contracts have no meaning.

        The consequences for not showing up these hearings and/or complying with the orders of the court are the same as any other court hearing be it civil or criminal. If you don’t show up you will be ruled against and if you don’t comply with the ruling you will go to jail.

        All you have to do is show up and demonstrate to the court that you don’t have the ability to pay. Courts are cognizant of the fact that you can’t get blood out of the proverbial turnip. You may end up being forced into involuntary bankruptcy but bankruptcy is the legal and proper way to discharge most of your debts and start over.

        • TheRealDeal says:

          Nova, what you’re saying is fundamentally true. However, in this case, the debt collection companies almost have a financial incentive to get a little sloppy with sending you summonses and other court paperwork. If they make sure you get all your documentation and you are present at the court hearing to prove that you have no ability to pay, they get nothing. However, if your summons is *accidentally* misplaced or sent to the wrong address and you don’t show, now they are capable of getting a bench warrant and virtually guaranteeing that they’ll get their money. Yes, it’s an abuse of the court system and illegal, but I wouldn’t put it past some of those sleazeballs.

          • HogwartsProfessor says:

            Not only that, but what about people who are targeted for a debt they already paid, or one that isn’t even theirs? How many horror stories have we heard about people being harassed for something they never even had anything to do with? I can’t think it would be much fun to get thrown in jail for someone else’s bills.

            • Ce J says:

              The way to correct this is to show up for court and participate.

              People get warrants issued because they don’t show up. This is AFTER there is a judgment against them, which is likely because they didn’t show up for their initial court date or answer a complaint filed against them. This requires personal service by an approved method so there’s an extremely high probability that the person knows about it.

              I’m all for consumer rights and I’m against abusive debt collectors. But the proper way to fight a debt is not to ignore it. Protect your rights and don’t ignore court orders, if only to show up and explain that you don’t have assets to pay or garnish.

              • TheWillow says:

                you’re assuming that these people are being properly served. Currently, collectors are under no incentive to actually serve you, but instead to pay someone to SAY that he served you. Who is the court going to believe? The debt collector or the deadbeat?

              • Verdant Pine Trees says:

                Again, a big problem is the sloppy summons. I can’t speak for the dorks who don’t show up for a bona fide summons they receive, but many people never get properly served, and only discover the problem when they get their wages garnished etc.

          • nova3930 says:

            If they’re getting sloppy with legal paperwork, then ENFORCE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR SERVING LEGAL PAPERS THAT ARE ALREADY ON THE BOOKS. There are longstanding legal requirements for the proper manner to serve legal documents. Damn well enforce them.

            Gutting the primary mechanism by which the court to enforces their orders to deal with that issue is quite honestly stupid and Franken is an idiot for proposing it.

        • Brontide says:

          No, the perversion comes about because the bail is being turned over to the creditor. This creates an incentive to abuse the system since it’s far easier to get someone to pay to get out of prison than to collect the money through any other legitimate means.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          “Enforcing contracts is exactly what this is about.”

          You’re absolutely right. Except the avenue debt collectors have to receive the debts owed is not through court summons, it’s through the garnishment procedure. They are circumventing the appropriate avenue for them to take, and instead using a loophole not intended to perform that function.

          • nova3930 says:

            I get the impression you have no idea what a garnishment is, how it works or how you get one.

            How do you think you get a garnishment except through the use of the courts? Tell me that. The only entity that can can get a garnishment without taking you to court, is the gov’t for tax debts. EVERYBODY else has to go through the court system which means summons, hearings, possibly a trial and court orders, including but not limited to garnishment.

            Even then, garnishment is not the only avenue that is legally allowable for collecting a debt via court order. It takes a court hearing to determine that you don’t actually have the assets on hand to pay now and that you do in fact have an employer that a garnishment order can be used with.

            If you have the assets on hand, they’re not going to bother with garnishment, you WILL be ordered to pay up immediately and if you do not comply with the court order, you will go to jail the same as if you ignored any other court order.

            • Charles Bronson says:

              Garnishment is very different from an arrest warrant. Nobody has suggested that collection agencies couldn’t use the legal system to enforce their contracts. The suggestion is that we should only allow them to use civil process to deal with a civil case, not back-door a criminal case out of it.

    • CJ SIege says:

      Yeah, and while we’re at it, we should establish debtor’s prisons, so those stinky debtors can get put where they belong!


    • bwcbwc says:

      This doesn’t impinge on the court’s ability to order seizure of property to pay the debt. There are other ways to force payment of a judgement.

      Also, it only prevents the collector from requesting an arrest warrant. If a court sees its judgments ignored, the judge is perfectly capable of issuing an arrest warrant for contempt on his/her own initiative.

  6. chaesar says:

    makes me consider moving to Minnesota just so I can vote for him

    • palfas says:

      I already do get vote for him and am so impressed with the job he’s doing.

      I’m proud to have elected Stuart Smalley

  7. stopNgoBeau says:

    I applaud his efforts, but if the debt collectors that he targets aren’t following the current legislation, which should be fine, how does he think this will prevent them from continuing their current practices?

  8. Dave on bass says:

    Damn, Franken! Please take this path all the way up to making it just plain illegal for a corporation to be an asshole to any customer for any reason. Please? =0)


    • magus_melchior says:

      What would be even better is if he could fast-track a way for a corporation to reorganize itself as “publicly traded, but not required to return a profit to shareholders”. Such a corporation could prioritize its social agenda ahead of profit, which means they would be free to not be craven bastards to consumers and the environment.

      (Now, I suppose a really evil corporation could prioritize “killing baby seals” over profits, but I doubt it would overcome public and political resistance…)

  9. Talisker says:

    Good ideas. I’d also make any debt invalid as soon as debt collectors use any illegal practice in collecting the debt.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      I also like that idea.

    • ldub says:

      Ooooh, I like the cut of your jib!

    • ARP says:

      I think it needs to be proportional. If a collector calls at 8:05 p.m. (assuming the cut-off is 8:00), I don’t think that should be the basis to wipe out tens of thousands of debt. But, perhaps it can knock a few thousand off (i.e. a fine plus some pre-set attorney’s fees).

      • Conformist138 says:

        This I like- each time they violate a law and the debtor can prove it, it’s another percentage or set amount off the debt. Call at 9pm when the cut-off is 8pm? I’ll be slicing off $200, thank you. Call back 9 times in less than two hours? Oh, there goes 10%…

        It would be just like interest/penalties/fees, only flipped right back around. Want me to play by the rules, pay my bills and take responsibility for any fees and extras I owe? That’s fine, as long as the street goes both ways. Being told what I must do while at the same time being entirely powerless to stop outright stalking/harassment is enough to make people just shrug and give up even trying.

        Also, can we make a rule: My aunt in CO that I only see every few years has NOTHING to do with my debts. She doesn’t know my finances, she doesn’t need to know, and including friends and family in the debt collection process not only violates my privacy, but hers as well. It didn’t make me pay my old debts faster (Yes, i did get them paid off), it just added humiliation that made me even less inclined to voluntarily call them up. If I was too stressed to face my problems, how does tattling to everyone I ever knew help matters? Funny enough, family didn’t get mad at me as much as they were livid at the collectors for bothering them. As they were quick to point out: it was between me and the company I owed, they really didn’t care to get involved at all and shouldn’t face harassing calls demanding my phone number (which they had, they just didn’t leave messages, just called back 10 times in a row from blocked numbers, which also wasn’t really getting me in the mood to answer- I felt scared and trapped).

    • tbax929 says:

      I love that idea. I’ve never thought about it, but it sounds awesome to me. When are you running for office?

      • magus_melchior says:

        He doesn’t have to– all he needs to do is petition Congress to write the bill.

        Of course, he’d have to outmaneuver the hordes of lobbyists in Washington…

  10. kingmanic says:

    The more i hear about Franken the more I think he’d make an amazing president. There seems to be at least one guy there doing goof work or at least trying to bring justice to his country.

  11. oldgraygeek says:

    He’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and doggone it, I like him.

  12. Bob Lu says:

    I don’t think to prohibit “all” debt collectors from seeking arrest warrants to collect on debts sounds like a reasonable idea. Yes there are abusive debt collectors but there are also ill intended debt evaders and they should not be protected.

  13. AgostoBehemoth says:

    “Arrest Warrents” – you can’t be arrested for credit card debt. You can be sued – part of being sued is being served. But it is certainly not an arrest warrant.

    • Brontide says:

      “People who are imprisoned for their debts are technically locked up for contempt of court after failing to appear for a hearing pertaining to their debt. It’s a legal loophole that debt-collection companies are increasingly using. Here’s how it works: First, the collections company files a lawsuit against the debtor, which requires them to appear in court. If the debtor doesn’t show up, the creditor wins a default judgment against them. This allows them to ask the court to schedule another hearing at which the judge can go through the debtor’s assets and determine if actions such as wage garnishments or bank account seizures can take place.

      If the debtor doesn’t show up to that hearing, the hammer of justice can come down hard and fast. From there, the judge can order the debtor in contempt of court and issue a warrant for their arrest. If this seems unnecessarily punitive, the price to get out of jail is even more so, say consumer advocates: Generally, the judge sets the cost of bail at the amount of the disputed debt, an amount which is then turned over to the creditor.

      “This is the private use of government resources to collect debt,” Pete Barry, partner at law firm Barry & Slade LLC, told Walletpop. One of Barry’s clients was arrested at her workplace for not filling out and sending back a form demanded by the creditor. The client, Barry says, suffered the humiliation of having to have her boss come to the jail and post a bond before she could be released. The bond money, he added, was turned over to the creditor. “They’re using the court system as their collection agent,” he says. “

      • TuxthePenguin says:

        So, to be perfectly clear, they aren’t being arrested for not paying their debts. They’re being arrested for IGNORING TWO COURT ORDERS TO SHOW UP.

        HUGE difference.

        • Blackadar says:

          Except that the defendants aren’t being properly served (or served at all).

          • nova3930 says:

            Then something needs to be done to ensure that people are properly served with legal paperwork. Removing the ability of a court to enforce their orders is NOT the solution.

            • Brontide says:

              Using bail to pay the creditors is also not the solution since it create a huge incentive to pervert the system.

            • palfas says:

              No, something needs to be done to insure that bail money is not turned over to the collector. This removes any incentive they might have to not serve you properly and go to trial.

              Remove the incentive, remove the abuse.

          • zifnab0 says:

            I can’t imagine any judge that would sentence someone to jail for contempt unless there was a SIGNIFICANT inquiry into whether the person was properly served.

            Furthermore, orders to appear are served by the court (or the police), and not by private litigants.

        • Gulliver says:

          Actually it is a de facto arrest for debt, since bail is set at the amount of the debt. If the judge sets $100 bail, and RETURNS the money to the defendant, and the collection agency then continues its collection. Bail should NEVER be turned over for a debt. This makes it a debt collection.

  14. cmp179 says:

    I especially like the idea of increasing the penalties for debt collectors who break the law. In my first job as an attorney, I got a big thrill out of filing lawsuits against debt collectors, but I often got the feeling that they weren’t really hurt by it, because they made more money with their tactics than they lost from the lawsuits. Maybe heftier penalties would serve as a better deterrent.

  15. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Warren/Frankin 2016!!

  16. Beave says:

    As a fiscal conservative who also believes that we need strong laws and regulations protecting the little guy I was a bit horrified when the people of Minnesota elected what appeared to be yet another quasi-celebrity nutjob to another important political office. (Jesse is still a nutjob btw) Yet I’ve been pretty impressed with the issues that Franken is advocating for and publicizing. He’s pretty much a party-line voter for a lot of what I consider wasteful spending, but he’s also advocating and pushing a lot of consumer protections that we need. Airlines, banks, credit card companies, it’s a race to the bottom right now. As soon as one company thinks up a creative new way to screw it’s customers over everyone else picks up the same policies. Someone needs to make it stop, and Franken seems to be leading that charge in Washington. Bravo Mr. Franken.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      “we need strong laws and regulations protecting the little guy”

      I think that pretty much rules you out as a Republican.

      • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

        Seriously. Someone’s going to put a used teabag in your bed, Godfather-style.

      • Trick says:

        Even the biggest partisan tool around can tell the difference between somebody who is a fiscal conservative and a Republican.

  17. Downfall says:

    “Require debt collectors to conduct thorough investigations when consumers dispute the debt.”

    This would be welcome. I had a company call me claiming that I owed money under a Gold’s Gym contract– which was wrong, because I canceled after my obligation period ended. When I tried telling the phone rep that, she claimed that they had contrary information. I asked her to send all the documentation they had, and their official position– verified with a supervisor– is that they’re not obligated to provide any documentation of the debt. So, e.g., they claimed not to have access to the original contract or anything proving they had purchased the debt from Gold’s. Needless to say, those sorts of things should be absolute minimums. I eventually FDCPA’d them and never heard from them again. Bastards.

  18. DJ Charlie says:

    How about stopping debt collectors from calling my phone 24/7 after being repeatedly told that THEY HAVE THE WRONG NUMBER! 18 calls today for a “Kirk (somebody)” who has NEVER had this number, and NEVER lived here!

    • Geekmom says:

      I second that! I’ve had to deal with wrong number debt collectors for 10 years.
      My first phone number I was getting phone calls for Micheal Smith, I’d tell them Micheal Smith doesn’t have this phone number and they’d say oh can we have your information so we can remove it from the system? Next call they’d ask for Mrs. “my name” Smith -.-
      It took 6 years to get them to stop calling.

  19. ldub says:

    Best $25 I ever spent was donating to his campaign. Go Al!!

  20. mirrorball says:

    I got no problem with some of these ideas. Several years ago a former landlord claimed I hadn’t paid my last month’s rent, but I had (and later proved to them). But they had a collection agency call me and then basically threaten me with legal action or arrest after I said I was disputing the debt. Thankfully they never followed through, but it was clear the collector was trying to bully me into paying the supposed debt. And that was just the first time they ever talked to me.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      A threat without following through on a disputed debt is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. You should have sued them. We don’t need to make this more complicated.

  21. smo0 says:

    Hello everyone. I’m here to talk about debt, jail time.. and you.
    So a collector used the system to do it’s dirty work, awesome. It’s totally legal… if that changes, it’s on your hands.
    But that hasn’t happened yet so stay with me on this.
    A summons goes out… perhaps you show, perhaps you don’t.
    But… American people (those who judge and judge alike) what does showing up in court really entail? What if it’s for a debt that you’ve already paid? OR WORSE…. one that is NOT EVEN YOURS?!

    I’m poor, I have to take the bus – the bus system here is very, very poor. I have to carefully plan out my route before leaving the house. I don’t go anywhere outside of work because of this. My work route is a routine – usually never messed with. If I need to go shopping, there are near by stores.
    Missing work…. or missing a LOT of work because of the timely transportation issue.
    Hi, poor here again, telling you about missing work. If I’m in a legitimate amount of debt or having job related issues – maybe taking time off is going to hurt me in the long term. Missing an entire day of work.. which can translate to stress from management or a day’s worth of pay lost… for the average american worker, that can be 50 to 100 dollars a day. That’s two weeks worth of groceries, a % of rent, an electric bill.

    If the people who like to sit on the pedastal and say “well just show up for court… and you won’t be arrested….” hmm… losing your home or your job or not eating for a week because you had to show up for court…..
    I can’t tell you how many times the system has been used against me… many times from collection agencies who never bothered contacting me about an issue IN THE FIRST PLACE!

    Think about that.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      So what you’re saying is…

      Its not worth it to not show up to court because you might lose your job or house, but then at the same time you do realize that you’re going to be tossed in jail because you didn’t show up to court, which means you lose your job or your house…

      You can find excuses for not doing most things. The problem here is just happens to be that this hypothetical poor person actually owes the debt and isn’t following the law. So do we want to start have class-based exemptions for the law? How about allowing me to pay $10k to be able to ignore all traffic laws and be given priority in traffic? Does that sound reasonable?

      • smo0 says:

        What I’m saying is.. it would be a non issue if they didn’t go the legal route in the first place.
        Avoid the courts all together.. like I said… it’s more than just a blanket “you owe money.”
        It seems these days, crap that doesn’t even make the 30 day mark of being past due ends up in the collections bin or the court bin…. these aggressive tactics on reclaiming debt is hurting the system even further.. and snowballing and spiriling out of control.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      You can respond in writing, and there are usually legal aid services. A good friend of mine runs a legal aid service and I heard him rant about a client that didn’t show up for a tenant dispute. He still won for his client though.

      What we have works MOST of the time. The FDCPA is very powerful. I haven’t read the proposed changes, but I fear they would move the enforcement to some very powerful but uncaring government agency. Right now collectors walk through a minefield trying not to get sued.

  22. TBGBoodler says:

    Why, oh why, do you have to call him “the former SNL star?”

    He wasn’t really a star of the show. :-)

  23. aweirdguy says:

    Thank you Franken! One of the few times I’ve ended up being happy with the vote I placed. It is refreshing to have a representative that makes an effort to represent their constituents. We need more “representatives” and many fewer “politicians” in charge and maybe this country would be a place we could be proud to be citizens of again.

  24. aweirdguy says:

    Thank you Franken! One of the few times I’ve ended up being happy with the vote I placed. It is refreshing to have a representative that makes an effort to represent their constituents. We need more “representatives” and many fewer “politicians” in charge and maybe this country would be a place we could be proud to be citizens of again.

  25. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    Wow….one of the things they are explicitly required to tell you is that if you dispute the debt for any reason they must stop contacting you until they provide you with proof of the debt.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      Broken commenting system iz broken. :(

    • dolemite says:

      I’ve got a debt that just showed up on my credit report. I had Progressive insurance back in 2009, but switched to Allstate. Progressive claims I never provided proof of insurance with Allstate, despite the fact I had already cancelled with them, so they billed me for another month. For whatever reason, I never got any notices about the debt, and it went to collections.

      So, I got a notice from the collections company about the debt, and I wrote them a letter asking for them to show what the debt is for. I’ve yet to hear back from them.

  26. aweirdguy says:

    Thank you Franken! One of the few times I’ve ended up being happy with the vote I placed. It is refreshing to have a representative that makes an effort to represent their constituents. We need more “representatives” and many fewer “politicians” in charge and maybe this country would be a place we could be proud to be citizens of again.

  27. aweirdguy says:

    Thank you Senator Franken! One of the few times I’ve ended up being happy with the vote I placed. It is refreshing to have a representative that makes an effort to represent their constituents. We need more “representatives” and many fewer “politicians” in charge and maybe this country would be a place we could be proud to be citizens of again.

  28. aweirdguy says:

    Thank you Senator Franken! One of the few times I’ve ended up being happy with the vote I placed. It is refreshing to have a representative that makes an effort to represent their constituents. We need more “representatives” and many fewer “politicians” in charge and maybe this country would be a place we could be proud to be citizens of again.

  29. TuxthePenguin says:

    Lets go through this one-by-one…

    • Prohibit debt collectors from seeking arrest warrants to collect on debts. – You mean prohibit courts for putting out warrants for ignoring court summons? People aren’t being arrested for not paying someone, they are being arrested for not showing up when the law demands they do.
    • Give consumers the information they need to protect themselves from unscrupulous debt collectors. – you mean the Federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act? Is this going to be in addition to that or is it just going to point to it?
    • Require debt collectors to conduct thorough investigations when consumers dispute the debt. – How is this going to work beyond what is already there? If you ask for proof of the debt, they have to provide it. If you then use that document to dispute that they have the debt, they either a) go back to the original company or b) take you to court. Well, C) sell it to someone else and have it be there problem. I think we’ll just see this becoming C) a lot more.
    • Increase penalties on debt collectors who break the law to discourage them from employing bad practices. – okay, so here’s the first real action that this will do. I can go for this.
    • Allow judges to provide injunctive relief to consumers when debt collectors continue to violate their rights as specified under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. – I think this is already part of the Act… but what is to stop them from reorganizing as another corporation and starting over?

    • yusefyk says:

      Why are you so aggressive on this issue?

      ” So do we want to start have class-based exemptions for the law”

      No one said that.

      “You mean prohibit courts for putting out warrants for ignoring court summons? “

      No one said that either.

      ” you mean the Federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act? Is this going to be in addition to that or is it just going to point to it?”

      Probably point to it. Is that wrong?

      “Then you didn’t read that series that well. You are not being thrown in jail for not paying your debts; you’re being thrown in jail for failing to show up in court when demanded.

      Huge, mammoth difference.”

      I read that series too. It was exceedingly clear that the process service process was being abused. Not only that, the bail amount was set at the value of the debt, as claimed by the “debt owner.” This short circuits the hopes of appealing the debt.

      People are not comfortable with this sort of behavior. They call on their elected leader to stop it. The elected leader drafts legislation to stop the behavior.

      I do not know why you so viciously take these peoples’ side. But I think you need a hug and some nice tea. Why get so worked up over this, it clearly will never apply to you, right? And it is how the system works.

      • Geekmom says:

        Because some people desperately need something to be angry about and grasp any reason they can to rail against things for the sake of being angry and railing against an issue regardless of what it is. My grandfather did that all the time.

    • palfas says:

      Seriously, why do you continue to rail against this so hard. It’s a good law that will help stop this abuse of the courts. It doesn’t go far enough IMO, it should make it illegal to turn over bail money to the debt collector hence removing their incentive to screw up the summons, but at least it’s a start.

  30. MsFab says:

    The Mpls Star Tribune did a big series a couple months ago about how people are being thrown in jail because they didn’t pay back debts. It was a great series & I’m sure it factored into Franken sponsoring this legislation.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      Then you didn’t read that series that well. You are not being thrown in jail for not paying your debts; you’re being thrown in jail for failing to show up in court when demanded.

      Huge, mammoth difference.

  31. veg-o-matic says:

    There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, till comedians become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become comedians, and political power and comedy thus come into the same hands.

    .. with apologies to Plato.

  32. stephent says:

    He might be crazy, but this is a good idea

  33. Gekas says:

    You know, you shouldn’t have to pay your debts if you don’t want to… debt collectors sould only be able to call you one time and ask very nicely if you would please pay the creditor back. and if you don’t pay a debt after 30 days it should be invalid.

    Honestly, consumers just need to be better educated. If you know your rights and you know how to manage your finances, you stand a much better chance of avoiding these things.

    That’s how all these folks get roped into the “it’s definitely too good to be true” debt settlement scams. If there’s a direction the government needs to be headed, its toward consumer education and awareness. There are too many ‘victims’ out there.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      For the consumer willing to do a little bit of homework and spend a little on postage we are almost to this level.

      If you tell a debt collector you dispute the debt, aren’t going to pay it, and stop contacting you, they have to either sue you or stop collecting.

  34. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act already gives consumers lots of room. If a customer knows their rights and doesn’t ignore service to appear in court, they can already kick collectors to the curb and move on with their life. Somehow I expect any more regulation to backfire.

  35. Emperor Norton I says:

    He should add the following to his proposed bill: Make it legal for anyone called by a debt collector to record the call without telling the collector they’re being recorded. It should override all state two party laws. Plus it should prohibit the collector from recording you without your written permission!

  36. scoosdad says:

    “sometimes going after debts that have already been paid or even targeting the wrong person… like me, {pause} Al Franken…

  37. NydiaGeben says:

    I can end the abuse. Pay your bills on time. There done.

    • ARP says:

      If the debt was discharged in bankruptcy, you should still pay it?
      If you’re legally not required the pay the debt (e.g. they sue you for your parent’s debt), you should still pay it?
      If they sued the wrong person (e.g. similar name), you should still pay it?
      If the debt is more than 7 years old, you should still pay it?
      You agree there is debt, but dispute the amount, you should still pay it?

      So if someone sends ANY bill, you should just pay it to prevent problems?

  38. jp7570-1 says:

    Why does it take a comedian to interject common sense into Washington DC? Way to go, Al.

  39. pot_roast says:

    “Require debt collectors to conduct thorough investigations when consumers dispute the debt.”

    This is good. Also, debt collectors should have to provide you with PROOF of the debt before being able to add it to a credit report, and there should be a 90 day waiting period before they can add it. Under no circumstances should I ever have to look at my credit report only to find some bogus charge from a company I have never dealt with three states away. That should never happen, but happens all the time. Fix that loophole too.

  40. Chewy says:

    No dispute from me that some collections people use unacceptable means to try and collect debt. Outright lying, failure to verify debts or provide proof and harassment at work are just a few examples.

    But, wow, another vague law that will specified and implemented by unknown, unelected and unchecked bureaucrats. I’ll reserve my final judgement until I can read the bill (someone ought to).

    Note to Editor: A direct link to legislative text would be helpful in discussion like this. For example;