Massachusetts Debt Collection Attorneys Subject to Consumer Protection Law, Rules Federal Appeals Co
This decision overturns a number of earlier cases holding that attorneys collecting debts on behalf of their clients cannot be liable to the people they collect from under Chapter 93A.
Why were these other courts saying attorneys did not have to comply with Chapter 93A? Usually, Chapter 93A only applies to a person’s conduct in “trade or commerce.” Since collection attorneys sue people, they were determined not to be acting in trade or commerce.
This is wrong, said the First Circuit. Massachusetts debt collection attorneys have to comply with Chapter 93A. Regardless of whether they are acting in trade or commerce, they are still acting as debt collectors. And any unfair debt collection is automatically a violation of Chapter 93A.
This case broadens the potential for debt collectors to be liable to consumers for violations of consumer protection laws. And even though the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits much of the same conduct that Chapter 93A prohibits, the FDCPA only has a one-year statute of limitations. Chapter 93A, however, has a four-year statute of limitations, giving consumers more time to assert their rights.
Any consumer who feels his or her rights have been violated by a debt collector or collection attorney should contact a qualified consumer-protection lawyer to see what protections and remedies may be available.
The case is available here: McDermott v. Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, P.C.
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