Oregon AG poised to gain enforcement power over debt collectors

By Chris Rizo | Apr 6, 2009

Ted Kulongoski (D)

John Kroger (D)

SALEM, Ore. (Legal Newsline)-On Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski's desk is a proposal that would give the state attorney general more authority to sue unscrupulous collection agencies.

The proposal, which has cleared both houses of the Legislature, was backed by Democratic Attorney General John Kroger, who said he needs more authority to pursue overzealous debt collectors who engage in verbal abuse, for instance.

Senate Bill 328 would 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.

"Unfortunately, at the present time there is no government agency in Oregon that has the authority to address conduct that violates Oregon's Unlawful Debt Collection Practices Act," Kroger said in a statement.

"This has allowed debt collectors to be nearly unregulated in their collection practices against Oregon consumers," Kroger added.

If signed, the proposed law would go into effect on Jan. 1.

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

Since 2001, the number of complaints about debt collection practices have been on Department of Justices' Top 10 Consumer Complaint List.

Last year, the Justice Department received 834 written consumer complaints about debt collection agencies and 254 about first party debt collectors.

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

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