Oregon AG gains power over debt collectors

Chris Rizo Apr. 9, 2009, 12:18pm

John Kroger (D)

SALEM, Ore. (Legal Newsline)- The Oregon attorney general's authority over debt collectors in the Beaver State will grow significantly under a bill Gov. Ted Kulongoski has signed that allows the AG to sue unscrupulous collection agencies.

The legislation will allow Attorney General John Kroger, beginning in January, to sue overzealous debt collectors who harass Oregonians by making middle-of-the-night collections calls or for engaging in verbal abuse, for instance.

"This important legislation will help us crack down on debt collectors who routinely violate state and federal law," Kroger said in a statement Thursday.

Senate Bill 328 specifically will allow the state's attorney general to go to court to enforce a 1977 law against illegal collection practices, the Unlawful Debt Collection Practices Act.

Currently, the attorney general can only sue collection agencies under Oregon's Unlawful Trade Protection Act. The Department of Consumer and Business Services licenses debt-collection agencies and regulates third-party debt collection.

The legislation was widely supported by consumer advocacy groups, including the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group. The trade group that represents collectors, the Oregon Collectors Association, opposed the proposal.

Last year, the Oregon Justice Department received 834 written consumer complaints about debt collection agencies and 254 about first-party debt collectors, the attorney general's office said.

"Many Oregon families are already struggling with these challenging economic times," said Democratic Sen.Suzanne Bonamici, chair of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee. "They need to know that the state is on their side. This legislation provides that reassurance by giving our attorney general the authority to go after unscrupulous debt collectors who cross the line."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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