CFPB

The Lawless ‘Bounty Hunter’

What recourse is available to a consumer for fraudulent or abusive collection practices? Nothing in Texas, they are pro debt collectors.

Frequently Asked Questions for Third-Party Debt Collectors & Credit Bureaus

The answers to our Frequently Asked Questions are provided for informational purposes and are not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for the advice of an attorney. If you have specific legal questions, consult your attorney.

In Texas, third-party debt collectors and credit bureaus are governed by Chapter 392 of the Finance Code, as well as any other applicable state or federal law.

What is a third-party debt collector?

With the exception of certain attorneys acting on behalf of their clients, a person who directly or indirectly engages in debt collection, including a person who sells or offers to sell forms represented to be a collection system, device, or scheme intended to be used to collect consumer debts.

Tex. Fin. Code § 392.001(6), (7).

What is a credit bureau?

A person who, for compensation, gathers, records, and disseminates information relating to the creditworthiness, financial responsibility, and paying habits of, and similar information regarding, a person for the purpose of furnishing that information to another person.

Tex. Fin. Code § 392.001(4).

FAQs for Third-Party Debt Collectors & Credit Bureaus

Are third-party debt collectors and credit bureaus required to register with the secretary of state?
How much does it cost to obtain a bond?
Is there a filing fee for the bond?
FAQs for Third-Party Debt Collector & Credit Bureau Consumers
How do I determine whether a third-party debt collector has filed a bond with the secretary of state?
What recourse is available to a consumer for fraudulent or abusive collection practices?
My question wasn’t answered here. Who do I call?

FAQs for Third-Party Debt Collectors & Credit Bureaus

Are third-party debt collectors and credit bureaus required to register with the secretary of state?

No, but third-party debt collectors and credit bureaus are required to file a $10,000 surety bond with the secretary of state before engaging in debt collection. Tex. Fin. Code. § 392.101. The bond must be in favor of the State of Texas for the benefit of any person damaged by any violation of Chapter 392, Finance Code. Id.

How much does it cost to obtain a bond?

The surety bonding company determines the cost of a surety bond. Contact the surety company to obtain the cost of the bond.

Is there a filing fee for the bond?

No.

FAQs for Third-Party Debt Collector & Credit Bureau Consumers

How do I determine whether a third-party debt collector has filed a bond with the secretary of state?

The names of third-party debt collectors and credit bureaus that have filed bonds may be searched on our Debt Collector Search.

What recourse is available to a consumer for fraudulent or abusive collection practices?

Chapter 392, Finance Code, provides for both civil remedies and criminal penalties. Tex. Fin. Code §§ 392.402–.404.

A consumer may take private legal action against a third-party debt collector or credit bureau for a violation of Chapter 392.

In addition, a consumer may file a complaint with the attorney general if the consumer feels that the third-party debt collector or credit bureau has violated Chapter 392 by engaging in a false, misleading, or deceptive act or practice.

Engaging in debt collection without filing a bond with the secretary of state is a violation of Chapter 392 and may also be a criminal offense. Tex. Fin. Code § 392.402.

The attorney general or a district or county attorney may investigate an alleged violation of Chapter 392. If you notify the secretary of state, this office will notify the third-party debt collector or credit bureau of the bond filing requirement and, if necessary, refer the matter to the attorney general for investigation.

Please report the names of any third-party debt collectors and credit bureaus that do not have bonds on file to:

Registrations Unit
Statutory Documents Section
Office of the Secretary of State
P. O. Box 13193
Austin, Texas 78711-3193
(512) 475-0775

The secretary of state is a filing officer for third-party debt collector and credit bureau bonds and does not have authority to regulate the business practices of third-party debt collectors or credit bureaus.

The secretary of state cannot resolve disputes about services or investigate business practices of a third-party debt collector or credit bureau.

You may also report any problems that you have with a third-party debt collector or credit bureau to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC is authorized to take action against a third-party debt collector or credit bureau who violates the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Complaints with the FTC may be filed online or by calling 1-877-382-4357.

Consumers may also wish to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

My question wasn’t answered here. Who do I call?

For additional information about filing a debt collection bond, please call (512) 475-0775. You can find further information relating to consumer rights from the Office of the Texas Attorney General or the Federal Trade Commission.

FINANCE CODE

TITLE 5. PROTECTION OF CONSUMERS OF FINANCIAL SERVICES

CHAPTER 392. DEBT COLLECTION

SUBCHAPTER A. GENERAL PROVISIONS

Sec. 392.001. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:

(1) “Consumer” means an individual who has a consumer debt.

(2) “Consumer debt” means an obligation, or an alleged obligation, primarily for personal, family, or household purposes and arising from a transaction or alleged transaction.

(3) “Creditor” means a party, other than a consumer, to a transaction or alleged transaction involving one or more consumers.

(4) “Credit bureau” means a person who, for compensation, gathers, records, and disseminates information relating to the creditworthiness, financial responsibility, and paying habits of, and similar information regarding, a person for the purpose of furnishing that information to another person.

(5) “Debt collection” means an action, conduct, or practice in collecting, or in soliciting for collection, consumer debts that are due or alleged to be due a creditor.

(6) “Debt collector” means a person who directly or indirectly engages in debt collection and includes a person who sells or offers to sell forms represented to be a collection system, device, or scheme intended to be used to collect consumer debts.

(7) “Third-party debt collector” means a debt collector, as defined by 15 U.S.C. Section 1692a(6), but does not include an attorney collecting a debt as an attorney on behalf of and in the name of a client unless the attorney has nonattorney employees who:

(A) are regularly engaged to solicit debts for collection; or

(B) regularly make contact with debtors for the purpose of collection or adjustment of debts.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997. Amended by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 62, Sec. 7.42, eff. Sept. 1, 1999.

SUBCHAPTER B. SURETY BOND

Sec. 392.101. BOND REQUIREMENT. (a) A third-party debt collector or credit bureau may not engage in debt collection unless the third-party debt collector or credit bureau has obtained a surety bond issued by a surety company authorized to do business in this state as prescribed by this section. A copy of the bond must be filed with the secretary of state.

(b) The bond must be in favor of:

(1) any person who is damaged by a violation of this chapter; and

(2) this state for the benefit of any person who is damaged by a violation of this chapter.

(c) The bond must be in the amount of $10,000.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

Sec. 392.102. CLAIM AGAINST BOND. A person who claims against a bond for a violation of this chapter may maintain an action against the third-party debt collector or credit bureau and against the surety. The aggregate liability of the surety to all persons damaged by a violation of this chapter may not exceed the amount of the bond.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

SUBCHAPTER C. INFORMATION IN FILES OF CREDIT BUREAU OR DEBT COLLECTOR

Sec. 392.201. REPORT TO CONSUMER. Not later than the 45th day after the date of the request, a credit bureau shall provide to a person in its registry a copy of all information contained in its files concerning that person.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

Sec. 392.202. CORRECTION OF THIRD-PARTY DEBT COLLECTOR’S OR CREDIT BUREAU’S FILES. (a) An individual who disputes the accuracy of an item that is in a third-party debt collector’s or credit bureau’s file on the individual and that relates to a debt being collected by the third-party debt collector may notify in writing the third-party debt collector of the inaccuracy. The third-party debt collector shall make a written record of the dispute. If the third-party debt collector does not report information related to the dispute to a credit bureau, the third-party debt collector shall cease collection efforts until an investigation of the dispute described by Subsections (b)-(e) determines the accurate amount of the debt, if any. If the third-party debt collector reports information related to the dispute to a credit bureau, the reporting third-party debt collector shall initiate an investigation of the dispute described by Subsections (b)-(e) and shall cease collection efforts until the investigation determines the accurate amount of the debt, if any. This section does not affect the application of Chapter 20, Business & Commerce Code, to a third-party debt collector subject to that chapter.

(b) Not later than the 30th day after the date a notice of inaccuracy is received, a third-party debt collector who initiates an investigation shall send a written statement to the individual:

(1) denying the inaccuracy;

(2) admitting the inaccuracy; or

(3) stating that the third-party debt collector has not had sufficient time to complete an investigation of the inaccuracy.

(c) If the third-party debt collector admits that the item is inaccurate under Subsection (b), the third-party debt collector shall:

(1) not later than the fifth business day after the date of the admission, correct the item in the relevant file; and

(2) immediately cease collection efforts related to the portion of the debt that was found to be inaccurate and on correction of the item send, to each person who has previously received a report from the third-party debt collector containing the inaccurate information, notice of the inaccuracy and a copy of an accurate report.

(d) If the third-party debt collector states that there has not been sufficient time to complete an investigation, the third-party debt collector shall immediately:

(1) change the item in the relevant file as requested by the individual;

(2) send to each person who previously received the report containing the information a notice that is equivalent to a notice under Subsection (c) and a copy of the changed report; and

(3) cease collection efforts.

(e) On completion by the third-party debt collector of the investigation, the third-party debt collector shall inform the individual of the determination of whether the item is accurate or inaccurate. If the third-party debt collector determines that the information was accurate, the third-party debt collector may again report that information and resume collection efforts.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997. Amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 851, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.

SUBCHAPTER D. PROHIBITED DEBT COLLECTION METHODS

Sec. 392.301. THREATS OR COERCION. (a) In debt collection, a debt collector may not use threats, coercion, or attempts to coerce that employ any of the following practices:

(1) using or threatening to use violence or other criminal means to cause harm to a person or property of a person;

(2) accusing falsely or threatening to accuse falsely a person of fraud or any other crime;

(3) representing or threatening to represent to any person other than the consumer that a consumer is wilfully refusing to pay a nondisputed consumer debt when the debt is in dispute and the consumer has notified in writing the debt collector of the dispute;

(4) threatening to sell or assign to another the obligation of the consumer and falsely representing that the result of the sale or assignment would be that the consumer would lose a defense to the consumer debt or would be subject to illegal collection attempts;

(5) threatening that the debtor will be arrested for nonpayment of a consumer debt without proper court proceedings;

(6) threatening to file a charge, complaint, or criminal action against a debtor when the debtor has not violated a criminal law;

(7) threatening that nonpayment of a consumer debt will result in the seizure, repossession, or sale of the person’s property without proper court proceedings; or

(8) threatening to take an action prohibited by law.

(b) Subsection (a) does not prevent a debt collector from:

(1) informing a debtor that the debtor may be arrested after proper court proceedings if the debtor has violated a criminal law of this state;

(2) threatening to institute civil lawsuits or other judicial proceedings to collect a consumer debt; or

(3) exercising or threatening to exercise a statutory or contractual right of seizure, repossession, or sale that does not require court proceedings.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1

Sec. 392.302. HARASSMENT; ABUSE. In debt collection, a debt collector may not oppress, harass, or abuse a person by:

(1) using profane or obscene language or language intended to abuse unreasonably the hearer or reader;

(2) placing telephone calls without disclosing the name of the individual making the call and with the intent to annoy, harass, or threaten a person at the called number;

(3) causing a person to incur a long distance telephone toll, telegram fee, or other charge by a medium of communication without first disclosing the name of the person making the communication; or

(4) causing a telephone to ring repeatedly or continuously, or making repeated or continuous telephone calls, with the intent to harass a person at the called number.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

Sec. 392.303. UNFAIR OR UNCONSCIONABLE MEANS. (a) In debt collection, a debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means that employ the following practices:

(1) seeking or obtaining a written statement or acknowledgment in any form that specifies that a consumer’s obligation is one incurred for necessaries of life if the obligation was not incurred for those necessaries;

(2) collecting or attempting to collect interest or a charge, fee, or expense incidental to the obligation unless the interest or incidental charge, fee, or expense is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the obligation or legally chargeable to the consumer; or

(3) collecting or attempting to collect an obligation under a check, draft, debit payment, or credit card payment, if:

(A) the check or draft was dishonored or the debit payment or credit card payment was refused because the check or draft was not drawn or the payment was not made by a person authorized to use the applicable account;

(B) the debt collector has received written notice from a person authorized to use the account that the check, draft, or payment was unauthorized; and

(C) the person authorized to use the account has filed a report concerning the unauthorized check, draft, or payment with a law enforcement agency, as defined by Article 59.01, Code of Criminal Procedure, and has provided the debt collector with a copy of the report.

(b) Notwithstanding Subsection (a)(2), a creditor may charge a reasonable reinstatement fee as consideration for renewal of a real property loan or contract of sale, after default, if the additional fee is included in a written contract executed at the time of renewal.

(c) Subsection (a)(3) does not prohibit a debt collector from collecting or attempting to collect an obligation under a check, draft, debit payment, or credit card payment if the debt collector has credible evidence, including a document, video recording, or witness statement, that the report filed with a law enforcement agency, as required by Subsection (a)(3)(C), is fraudulent and that the check, draft, or payment was authorized.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

Amended by:

Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 505 (H.B. 628), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2005.

Sec. 392.304. FRAUDULENT, DECEPTIVE, OR MISLEADING REPRESENTATIONS. (a) Except as otherwise provided by this section, in debt collection or obtaining information concerning a consumer, a debt collector may not use a fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading representation that employs the following practices:

(1) using a name other than the:

(A) true business or professional name or the true personal or legal name of the debt collector while engaged in debt collection; or

(B) name appearing on the face of the credit card while engaged in the collection of a credit card debt;

(2) failing to maintain a list of all business or professional names known to be used or formerly used by persons collecting consumer debts or attempting to collect consumer debts for the debt collector;

(3) representing falsely that the debt collector has information or something of value for the consumer in order to solicit or discover information about the consumer;

(4) failing to disclose clearly in any communication with the debtor the name of the person to whom the debt has been assigned or is owed when making a demand for money;

(5) in the case of a third-party debt collector, failing to disclose, except in a formal pleading made in connection with a legal action:

(A) that the communication is an attempt to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose, if the communication is the initial written or oral communication between the third-party debt collector and the debtor; or

(B) that the communication is from a debt collector, if the communication is a subsequent written or oral communication between the third-party debt collector and the debtor;

(6) using a written communication that fails to indicate clearly the name of the debt collector and the debt collector’s street address or post office box and telephone number if the written notice refers to a delinquent consumer debt;

(7) using a written communication that demands a response to a place other than the debt collector’s or creditor’s street address or post office box;

(8) misrepresenting the character, extent, or amount of a consumer debt, or misrepresenting the consumer debt’s status in a judicial or governmental proceeding;

(9) representing falsely that a debt collector is vouched for, bonded by, or affiliated with, or is an instrumentality, agent, or official of, this state or an agency of federal, state, or local government;

(10) using, distributing, or selling a written communication that simulates or is represented falsely to be a document authorized, issued, or approved by a court, an official, a governmental agency, or any other governmental authority or that creates a false impression about the communication’s source, authorization, or approval;

(11) using a seal, insignia, or design that simulates that of a governmental agency;

(12) representing that a consumer debt may be increased by the addition of attorney’s fees, investigation fees, service fees, or other charges if a written contract or statute does not authorize the additional fees or charges;

(13) representing that a consumer debt will definitely be increased by the addition of attorney’s fees, investigation fees, service fees, or other charges if the award of the fees or charges is subject to judicial discretion;

(14) representing falsely the status or nature of the services rendered by the debt collector or the debt collector’s business;

(15) using a written communication that violates the United States postal laws and regulations;

(16) using a communication that purports to be from an attorney or law firm if it is not;

(17) representing that a consumer debt is being collected by an attorney if it is not;

(18) representing that a consumer debt is being collected by an independent, bona fide organization engaged in the business of collecting past due accounts when the debt is being collected by a subterfuge organization under the control and direction of the person who is owed the debt; or

(19) using any other false representation or deceptive means to collect a debt or obtain information concerning a consumer.

(b) Subsection (a)(4) does not apply to a person servicing or collecting real property first lien mortgage loans or credit card debts.

(c) Subsection (a)(6) does not require a debt collector to disclose the names and addresses of employees of the debt collector.

(d) Subsection (a)(7) does not require a response to the address of an employee of a debt collector.

(e) Subsection (a)(18) does not prohibit a creditor from owning or operating a bona fide debt collection agency.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997. Amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 851, Sec. 2, eff. Sept. 1, 2003; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., 3rd C.S., ch. 3, Sec. 28.01, eff. Jan.

Sec. 392.305. DECEPTIVE USE OF CREDIT BUREAU NAME. A person may not use “credit bureau,” “retail merchants,” or “retail merchants association” in the person’s business or trade name unless:

(1) the person is engaged in gathering, recording, and disseminating information, both favorable and unfavorable, relating to the creditworthiness, financial responsibility, and paying habits of, and similar information regarding, persons being considered for credit extension so that a prospective creditor can make a sound decision in the extension of credit; or

(2) the person is a nonprofit retail trade association that:

(A) consists of individual members;

(B) qualifies as a bona fide business league as defined by the United States Internal Revenue Service; and

(C) does not engage in the business of debt collection or credit reporting.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

Sec. 392.306. USE OF INDEPENDENT DEBT COLLECTOR. A creditor may not use an independent debt collector if the creditor has actual knowledge that the independent debt collector repeatedly or continuously engages in acts or practices that are prohibited by this chapter.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

Sec. 392.307. COLLECTION OF CERTAIN CONSUMER DEBT BY DEBT BUYERS. (a) In this section:

(1) “Charged-off debt” means a consumer debt that a creditor has determined to be a loss or expense to the creditor instead of an asset.

(2) “Debt buyer” means a person who purchases or otherwise acquires a consumer debt from a creditor or other subsequent owner of the consumer debt, regardless of whether the person collects the consumer debt, hires a third party to collect the consumer debt, or hires an attorney to pursue collection litigation in connection with the consumer debt. The term does not include:

(A) a person who acquires in-default or charged-off debt that is incidental to the purchase of a portfolio that predominantly consists of consumer debt that has not been charged off; or

(B) a check services company that acquires the right to collect on a paper or electronic negotiable instrument, including an Automated Clearing House (ACH) authorization to debit an account that has not been processed.

(b) Unless otherwise expressly provided, this section prevails to the extent of any conflict between this section and any other law of this state.

(c) A debt buyer may not, directly or indirectly, commence an action against or initiate arbitration with a consumer to collect a consumer debt after the expiration of the applicable limitations period provided by Section 16.004, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, or Section 3.118, Business & Commerce Code.

(d) If an action to collect a consumer debt is barred under Subsection (c), the cause of action is not revived by a payment of the consumer debt, an oral or written reaffirmation of the consumer debt, or any other activity on the consumer debt.

(e) If a debt buyer is engaged in debt collection for a consumer debt for which an action to collect the debt is barred under Subsection (c), the debt buyer, or a debt collector acting on behalf of the debt buyer, shall provide the following notice in the initial written communication with the consumer relating to the debt collection:

(1) if the reporting period for including the consumer debt in a consumer report prepared by a consumer reporting agency has not expired under Section 605, Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. Section 1681c), and the debt buyer furnishes to a consumer reporting agency information regarding the consumer debt, “THE LAW LIMITS HOW LONG YOU CAN BE SUED ON A DEBT. BECAUSE OF THE AGE OF YOUR DEBT, WE WILL NOT SUE YOU FOR IT. IF YOU DO NOT PAY THE DEBT, [INSERT NAME OF DEBT BUYER] MAY CONTINUE TO REPORT IT TO CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES AS UNPAID FOR AS LONG AS THE LAW PERMITS THIS REPORTING. THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.”;

(2) if the reporting period for including the consumer debt in a consumer report prepared by a consumer reporting agency has not expired under Section 605, Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. Section 1681c), but the debt buyer does not furnish to a consumer reporting agency information regarding the consumer debt, “THE LAW LIMITS HOW LONG YOU CAN BE SUED ON A DEBT. BECAUSE OF THE AGE OF YOUR DEBT, WE WILL NOT SUE YOU FOR IT. THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.”; or

(3) if the reporting period for including the consumer debt in a consumer report prepared by a consumer reporting agency has expired under Section 605, Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. Section 1681c), “THE LAW LIMITS HOW LONG YOU CAN BE SUED ON A DEBT. BECAUSE OF THE AGE OF YOUR DEBT, WE WILL NOT SUE YOU FOR IT, AND WE WILL NOT REPORT IT TO ANY CREDIT REPORTING AGENCY. THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.”

(f) A notice required under Subsection (e) must be in at least 12-point type that is boldfaced, capitalized, or underlined or otherwise conspicuously set out from the surrounding written material.

Added by Acts 2019, 86th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1055 (H.B. 996), Sec. 2, eff. September 1, 2019.

SUBCHAPTER E. DEFENSE, CRIMINAL PENALTY, AND CIVIL REMEDIES

Sec. 392.401. BONA FIDE ERROR. A person does not violate this chapter if the action complained of resulted from a bona fide error that occurred notwithstanding the use of reasonable procedures adopted to avoid the error.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

Sec. 392.402. CRIMINAL PENALTY. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (d), a person commits an offense if the person violates this chapter.

(b) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $100 or more than $500 for each violation.

(c) A misdemeanor charge under this section must be filed not later than the first anniversary of the date of the alleged violation.

(d) This section does not apply to a violation of Section 392.307.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

Amended by:

Acts 2019, 86th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1055 (H.B. 996), Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2019.

Sec. 392.403. CIVIL REMEDIES. (a) A person may sue for:

(1) injunctive relief to prevent or restrain a violation of this chapter; and

(2) actual damages sustained as a result of a violation of this chapter.

(b) A person who successfully maintains an action under Subsection (a) is entitled to attorney’s fees reasonably related to the amount of work performed and costs.

(c) On a finding by a court that an action under this section was brought in bad faith or for purposes of harassment, the court shall award the defendant attorney’s fees reasonably related to the work performed and costs.

(d) If the attorney general reasonably believes that a person is violating or is about to violate this chapter, the attorney general may bring an action in the name of this state against the person to restrain or enjoin the person from violating this chapter.

(e) A person who successfully maintains an action under this section for violation of Section 392.101, 392.202, or 392.301(a)(3) is entitled to not less than $100 for each violation of this chapter.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

Sec. 392.404. REMEDIES UNDER OTHER LAW. (a) A violation of this chapter is a deceptive trade practice under Subchapter E, Chapter 17, Business & Commerce Code, and is actionable under that subchapter.

(b) This chapter does not affect or alter a remedy at law or in equity otherwise available to a debtor, creditor, governmental entity, or other legal entity.

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1008, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

On the 14th of August, in the same Federal Court in Houston as Magistrate Judge Smith resides, there was a ruling by Senior Federal Judge Nancy Atlas in Jackson vs US Bank.  You can view and download it HERE.

A. TDCA & DTPA Claims

The Lawrys’ TDCA claims consist, in full, of only the following paragraph:

Pursuant to Texas Finance Code 392.403, Plaintiffs file this action for injunctive relief to prevent or restrain a violation of this chapter; and for actual damages sustained as a result of a violation of this chapter, attorney’s fees reasonably related to the amount of work performed and costs, and for each violation of Section 392.101, 392.202, or 392.301(a)(3), a penalty of not less than $100 for each violation of this chapter.
To survive a motion to dismiss, “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do[.]” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Here, there is not even that—only a bare recitation of the statutes relied upon and relief sought. Though the pleading standard no longer requires “detailed factual allegations,” it requires some statement of facts that suggest a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 555 & n.3. The Lawrys did not plead any facts related to the bond requirement of section 392.101, the process for correction of files under section 392.202, the use of threats or coercion under section 392.301, or representations to third parties of a disputed debt under section 392.301(a)(3) (nor have they alleged that they gave written notice to the banks, a prerequisite for liability under section 392.301(a)(3)). TEX. FIN. CODE ANN. §§ 392.101, .202, .301.

The banks are also shielded from the reach of sections 392.101 and .202. A defendant must either be a “third-party debt collector” or “credit bureau” to be held liable under those sections. Id. §§ 392.101, .202. The Lawrys have not alleged that either of the banks meets those definitions. Further, “a [third-party] debt collector does not include the consumer’s creditors, a mortgage servicing company, or an assignee of a debt, as long as the debt was not in default at the time it was assigned.” CA Partners v. Spears, 274 S.W.3d 51, 79 (Tex. App. 2008) (quoting Perry v. Stewart Title Co., 756 F.2d 1197, 1208 (5th Cir. 1985) (interpreting the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act)). Because the Lawrys did not allege that the debt was in default at the time it was assigned, they have not shown why the Bank of New York, the assignee of the note, and PNC, the mortgage servicer, are not exempt.

For these reasons, the Lawrys have failed to state a claim under the TDCA. Consequently, because the Lawrys rely on the TDCA tie-in provision to assert a claim under the DTPA, the failure of their TDCA claims is the death knell for their DTPA claims. See TEX. FIN. CODE ANN. § 392.404. We affirm the dismissal of their TDCA and DTPA claims with prejudice.

Lawry v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon Tr. Co., No. 19-10671, at *4-6 (5th Cir. Dec. 13, 2019)

The Bank argues that Smith has failed to state a claim under §§ 392.303 and 392.304 because her citations to these sections are mere legal conclusions.

The Supreme Court has made clear that a Rule 12(b)(6) motion turns on the sufficiency of the “factual allegations” in the complaint.

A complaint need not cite a specific statutory provision or articulate a perfect “statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.” 

Accordingly, the Bank’s 12(b)(6) motion turns on the facts Smith alleged in connection with her TDCA claim, not her citations to the statutory provisions. Because we may affirm a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal on any grounds supported by the record, we turn to Smith’s factual allegations.

Smith v. Bank of Am., N.A., 615 F. App’x 830, 5 (5th Cir. 2015)

BARKSDALE, RHESA H.

HIGGINSON, STEPHEN A.

DUNCAN, STUART K.

Appeals Court Says Disclosure of Interest in Collection Letter is Compliant with FDCPA

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit holds to Texas district court decision that agency’s letter conveyed accurate, common-sense information to consumer on possible interest and other charges.

Originally Published: March 18, 2020

A debt collection agency has received a favorable ruling on disclosure of interest under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

According to the opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in Marco Salinas v. R.A. Rogers, Inc., the collection agency did not use “false, deceptive, and misleading” language in a letter to the consumer.

The letter included the statement “In the event there is interest or other charges accruing on your account, the amount due may be greater than the amount shown above after the date of this notice.”

Salinas sued in response to that language, citing it was “false, deceptive and misleading,” in violation of sec. 1692e of the FDCPA because no interest or other charges could accrue on his account.

The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, handling the original case, issued a summary judgment to the collection agency.

In the appeal, Salinas argued that the district court erred in approving the summary judgment and maintained the collection agency’s language was misleading and in violation of the FDCPA.

“Salinas also argues that the district court applied the wrong summary judgment standard because the court drew an inference in R.A. Rogers’ favor- the court inferred that R.A. Rogers would collect interest based on the fact that (under Texas law) the agency could collect interest-and, further, improperly required evidence of ‘subjective confusion’ on the part of Salinas. Because our holding today does not depend on either point, we need not address these arguments,” the appeals court states in its opinion.

The appeals court affirmed the summary judgment based on the fact that the challenged statement about interest in the letter expresses common sense. “If interest is accruing on a debt, then the amount due may go up,” the court’s opinion states. “That simple statement would have been clear even to an unsophisticated borrower thousands of years ago, just as it would be today. We therefore conclude that putting the statement in a dunning letter does not violate the FDCPA.”

“We are gratified by the common-sense approach taken by the 5th Circuit in their Salinas decision,” said Kevin Crocker, attorney with Barron & Newburger, PC, representing the collection agency. “We are also pleased that, in taking that approach, the Court found that our client’s letter was accurate and that the sentence at issue did not violate the FDCPA. We recognize that the Court’s decision may not be the ‘death knell’ to litigation in the 5th Circuit over interest disclosures and letters pertaining to a variable account balance, but we believe that the decision shows that the 5th Circuit is willing to take a pragmatic, open-minded approach, construing a letter as a whole and not merely isolated parts taken out of context.”

If you read from page 17, it reads;

TDCPA § 392.101
“In Count Two of their Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Shapiro violated TDCPA § 392.101 by conducting business as a third-party debt collector in Texas without the requisite surety bond. Shapiro responds that it is not a “third-party debt collector” within the meaning of the TDCPA, and thus, is not subject to the bond requirement. Shapiro responds further that even if it is a “third-party debt collector,” its efforts in connection with the attempted foreclosure of the Property are not “debt collections” within the meaning of the TDCPA.  These responses lack merit.

Atlas details her reasonings based on Texas law and goes on to find in favor of the Plaintiffs in relation to this part of their lawsuit.

The first steps we have taken after reading this ruling are to find out who the defendants Shapiro Schwartz are;

 

Shapiro Schwartz LLP:  a Foreclosure Mill and Debt Collectors

A simple online search brought out the usual “red flags” pertaining to Shapiro Schwartz (hereinafter referred to as Shapiro).

No website.

Same as BDF they hide from the public as they are a foreclosure debt collection agency.

Glassdoor reviews.

All attorneys with the keyword “Foreclosure” prevalent by all reviewers, stating they were lawyers working at a foreclosure mill.

Now we have confirmed Shapiro are debt collectors, we return to our case and would bring your attention to the following;

BDF

As stated above, they are in the exact same business as Shapiro.

Shelley Hopkins

Worked for BDF as lead Foreclosure Manager.

Mark Hopkins

All his practice income is solely from “foreclosures”, he is what we refer to as a ‘Bounty Hunter’, he is hired by and works directly with BDF and represents them in their cases.

Hopkins Law

When Mark Hopkins stepped in after BDF lost the case at trial in Judge Smith’s Court, he was in partnership with a long term friend for many years. However, that changed when he married Shelley who we believe convinced him to go on his own and together they could become “foreclosure kings” in Texas.

We did some background work on Hopkins at that time and submitted to the court our research, including the fact he lied to the Houston court by saying he was still in a partnership when assigning himself to our case, when, in fact he was now a new firm, trading as Hopkins Law.

The court refused our complaints that he was a debt collector / bounty hunter and ignored his deception, – see our filing doc 111 here – which, by law, would have allowed us to strike him from the case and also have him censured.

Hopkins Law is not Bonded and the case at the 5th should be tossed out.

Hopkins Law is not Bonded and this case has to be either dismissed in favor of the Burkes’ as a result or the case found in the favor of the Burkes’, ending this decade long lawsuit, when you file the en-banc request.

BDF

If you visit the website here;

https://www.sos.state.tx.us/statdoc/faqs2900.shtml

and then search Hopkins Law in Austin here;

http://direct.sos.state.tx.us/debtcollectors/DCSearch.asp

it will confirm that there is no company or person of that name who is currently bonded in the State of Texas.

A Question for the Supreme Court

If you refer to the Jackson ruling, the Judge makes the following statements (page 21);

“The Texas Supreme Court has yet to address whether foreclosure is “debt collection” under the TDCPA. However, courts throughout Texas applying Texas law consistently have considered foreclosure actions to constitute “debt collection” under the TDCPA and have permitted foreclosure-related claims thereunder.”

The footnote no. 18 she includes here lists extensively cases which confirm her statement and reasoning for her opinion and ruling.

We would like HBSSLaw to review and consider our findings and include this in the en-banc filing.

In the worst case scenario, as the Judge clearly stated, the Supreme Court has yet to confirm debt collector ‘status’ which is implied law rather than documented law.

We believe this alone qualifies as an appeal to the Supreme Court, if the en-banc hearings are refused by the 5th COA.

Your opinion in this respect would be valued.

Other cited articles;

Debt collection law firms must follow FDCPA in foreclosure cases.

https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/2018/03/05/debt-collection-law-firms-must-follow-fdcpa-in-foreclosure-cases/?slreturn=20180814054331

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Laws In Texas is a blog about the Financial Crisis and how the banks and government are colluding against the citizens and homeowners of the State of Texas and relying on a system of #FakeDocs and post-crisis legal precedents, specially created by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to foreclose on homeowners around this great State. We are not lawyers. We do not offer legal advice. We are citizens of the State of Texas who have spent a decade in the court system in Texas and have been party to during this period to the good, the bad and the very ugly.

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