A federal judge awarded a Lafayette woman $ 700, due to harassment by a debt collection agency and violation of federal and state consumer protection laws.
Accredited Management Solutions, LLC, a debt collector based in East Amherst, NY, did not respond to Sharon Shibata’s allegations, leading U.S. District Court Chief Justice Philip A. Brimmer to issue judgment on Tuesday in his favor on his legal claims against the company.
Shibata, a resident of Lafayette, said Accredited Management Solutions started calling her in February 2020 to collect car loan debt. On voicemail messages left on her cell phone, the company allegedly failed to reveal she was the source of the message and threatened legal action.
When Shibata called the company back to challenge the validity of the debt, two employees repeated the threat of a lawsuit or garnishment unless it paid off the debt.
Shibata filed a federal complaint in April last year, citing violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Specifically, she accused Accredited Management Solutions of using coercive tactics, misrepresenting and attempting to collect debt beyond the legal deadline. She requested compensation in the amount of $ 1,000, which is the maximum allowed under federal law.
Brimmer admitted that the company had committed violations, including making calls without revealing his identity and threatening legal action despite the expiration of the statute of limitations. However, the judge found that Shibata had not challenged the debt in writing as required by law, meaning the company had not broken the law by ignoring his statements over the phone.
“Although the plaintiff alleges that the defendant left several voicemail messages and threatened legal action, this is not the most egregious violation of the FDCPA,” Brimmer wrote in his Sept. 21 order. “Accordingly, the Court finds that an award of $ 700 in statutory damages is appropriate.”
He also awarded Shibata over $ 3,700 in legal fees and $ 574 in other costs.
Complaints against Accredited Management Solutions on the Better Business Bureau website reflect similar concerns about threats and non-disclosure. There have been eight more consumer protection cases filed against the company since January last year in federal courts across the country.
In August 2020, a Texas district court judge awarded a plaintiff $ 500 in similar circumstances. Shortly thereafter, a Florida judge awarded $ 2,000 for violations of federal and state law. Accredited Management Solutions will also appear in these cases.
The case is Shibata v Accredited Management Solutions, LLC.