The state Attorney General’s office has filed a lawsuit against a Renton-based collection agency that was asking people to “settle” old debts when the statute of limitations had passed. Of over 75,000 “settlement offer” letters sent to Washington residents, 3,292 people made payments.
Convergent has approximately 700 employees and $80 million in annual revenues. The collection agency handles major corporate accounts like Verizon and PayPal. It also supports debt buyers Palisades Collection, Galaxy Asset Purchasing and Pinnacle Credit Services.
The state estimates that Convergent made hundreds of thousands in collection fees from these time-barred debts in Washington, according to a press release from the office of the Attorney General.
AG Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Convergent Outsourcing for pushing consumers into settlements that were pass the statute of limitations for a collection lawsuit. Framing the payments as settlements implied that Convergent was prepared to sue if people didn’t pay, the office argues.
Ferguson’s lawsuit states that Convergent violated the Consumer Protection Act and the Collection Agency Act when it sent 75,466 deceptive “settlement offer” letters to Washington consumers.
In response to these letters, 3,292 Washington consumers made payments to Convergent on these old debts. In Washington, the statute of limitations on debt collection lawsuits is six years after the date of default or last payment on the debt account. None of the letters disclosed that the debts were past the statute of limitations.
The AG’s Office has so far obtained three of the “settlement offer” letters Convergent sent Washington consumers. These three letters asked people to pay an average “settlement” amount of $300.
Ferguson’s lawsuit asks the court to order Convergent to return to those who were misled, in Washington and nationwide, all revenue it collected on time-barred debts after sending the “settlement offer” collection letters. The exact amount will be determined as the lawsuit continues.
In September 2016, a panel of federal judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in an individual consumer’s lawsuit against Convergent, that these letters from Convergent could mislead a someone into believing he or she could be sued on the debt and deceive the person.
The judges’ ruling states, “While it is not automatically unlawful for a debt collector to seek payment of a time-barred debt, a collection letter violates the [Fair Debt Collection Practices Act] when its statements could mislead an unsophisticated consumer to believe that her time-barred debt is legally enforceable, regardless of whether litigation is threatened.”
For more information on collection agencies, including what to expect when a collection agency contacts you, visit here.