FTC Announces $4 million Action Against Debt Collector Over Convenience Fees

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A Houston debt collection agency, and its president and sole shareholder, have agreed to a federal court order in a case initiated by the FTC that will see the company pay a penalty and stop certain practices pertaining to its use of convenience fees.

According to the FTC’s complaint, RTB Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a Allied Data Corporation, and its owner Raymond T. Blair, violated the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by using false and deceptive methods to collect more than $1.3 million in so-called “convenience fees” and “transaction fees” from consumers who authorized payments by telephone. The defendants allegedly trained their collectors to deceive consumers into believing that payments were not accepted by U.S. mail and that the fees were unavoidable. In some instances, the fees were added to consumers’ accounts without their knowledge or consent, the FTC charged.

The FTC also alleged that the defendants’ collectors deceived both English and Spanish- speaking consumers by falsely claiming to speak for attorneys, falsely threatening to sue consumers who did not pay, and using deceptive schemes to coerce consumers into paying or providing their personal information.

“It’s illegal for debt collectors to lie, make false threats, use a false identity, or trick people into paying a debt or an unauthorized fee,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC will continue to protect consumers from deceptive or abusive debt collection practices, regardless of whether the deception or abuse occurs in English, Spanish, or any other language.”

The federal court order imposes a penalty of $4 million, which will be partially suspended based on inability to pay once Blair surrenders assets totaling $100,000. The proposed order also requires Blair to relinquish a luxury motor home. The order prohibits Blair and his company from repeating any of the unfair or deceptive practices alleged in the complaint, and it requires them to truthfully disclose information about any fees they charge, and the steps consumers can take to avoid paying.

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