Washington AG sues allegedly profane collection agency

By Chris Rizo | Feb 21, 2009

Rob McKenna (R)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline)-Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna is suing a collection agency his office claims insulted and harassed consumers.

Topco Financial Services is being sued for violating the state's Consumer Protection Act. Named in the lawsuit are company president Tracey Austell, of Mill Creek, Wash., and secretary/treasurer Harry Packer of Desert Hot Springs, Calif.

The lawsuit filed Friday in Snohomish County Superior Court accuses the company or its representatives of using harassing, threatening, intimidating, embarrassing and offensive language, including: "You got yourself into this [profanity] situation," and "What kind of mother is she to raise a daughter like you?"

"The law prohibits a collector from threatening, harassing, intimidating or embarrassing someone they are calling," McKenna said.

Representatives of the Everett, Wash.-based company allegedly called debtors such names as: "loser," scum," "plight on society," "no good," "lowlife," "deadbeat," "worthless," or "terrible parents," the attorney general's office said.

Officials also claim the company has illegally threatened debtors with having their driver's license revoked.

"With many consumers in financial crisis, collection agencies are busier than ever," said Assistant Attorney General Shannon Smith. "While they have a right to try to collect on debts that you legitimately owe, they must treat consumers fairly and cannot bully, inundate you with harassing phone calls or lie about what will happen if you don't pay a bill."

The attorney general's office said it has received more than 120 complaints about the company since the beginning of 2005. The business has an "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau.

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

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