Collection Agency Focus Receivables Management Sued for Allegedly Violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act While Collecting a Disputed DirecTV Account

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Consumer activist Christine Baker sued Focus Receivables Management LLC and its collector James Hurd after he ignored her legitimate dispute, continued to collect and threatened to report the disputed DirecTV debt to the credit bureaus unless she paid the bogus $250 debt. Focus Receivables denies that it violated the FDCPA and Ms. Baker now seeks a competent attorney to represent her.

Credit consultant and consumer activist Christine Baker filed suit in December 2006 against Focus Receivables Management LLC, James Hurd, DirecTV and several other defendants in Phoenix federal court, case # CIV-06-2927-PCT-NVW. Focus Receivables and James Hurd are the only remaining defendants.

Ms. Baker had purchased a certificate for 6 months free DirecTV satellite TV service at the website for a DirecTV class action settlement. In 12/05, after numerous futile attempts to receive the service, she ordered DirecTV service at its website and she paid for the service.

After canceling the service, Ms. Colleen Spidell in the DirecTV legal department promised Ms. Baker in April 2006 that the early cancellation fee would be waived and Ms. Baker expected the refund of the monthly bills she had paid while the service should have been free.

Instead of the refund, Ms. Baker received a collection call for the DirecTV $250 early cancellation fee on July 5, 2006. She immediately advised collector James Hurd with Focus Receivables that DirecTV actually owed her money. However, Mr. Hurd ignored her dispute, continued to collect and repeatedly threatened with the reporting of the disputed debt to the credit bureaus. According to Baker, Hurd allegedly stated that DirecTV had also falsely stated that DirecTV had filed a legal claim against her and that DirecTV would report the account to the credit bureaus if she did not pay.

Ms. Baker paid the $250 to DirecTV, as she had just purchased property and she was looking for a construction loan and a collection would have destroyed her flawless credit rating. DirecTV later refunded the payment for the early termination fee, but not the monthly fee and Ms. Baker never received any free service.

The transcript of the legally recorded collection call, audio excerpts and the Focus collection letter are posted at http://creditlegislation.org/ and the court filings and discovery documents are posted at http://forum.creditcourt.com/discus/messages/8177/8177.html.

On October 10, 2007, the settlement conference in Phoenix resulted in even more frustration for Ms. Baker. The parties agree on the above facts, but Focus Receivables and James Hurd deny that they violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Ms. Baker wants Focus to change its collection practices and to stop threatening with credit reporting until disputed debts are validated. She already spent countless hours on this litigation and with settlement unlikely, Ms. Baker hopes to find an attorney to represent her. Focus Receivables and Mr. Hurd are represented by attorney Cynthia Fulton, Fulton & Friedman, PLLC in Phoenix.

From her many years of experience as real estate and mortgage broker and then credit consultant, Ms. Baker knows that credit reporting is by far the most effective collection tool. While consumers can dispute with the credit bureaus, the FICO credit scores required for mortgages ignore any collection dispute notations and existing creditors quickly raise the interest rates to the default rate (often around 30%) when a negative account is reported.

The consumers' only option to save their credit rating is to pay bogus debts BEFORE they are reported to the credit bureaus. FICO scores give NO points for paying collections.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently reviewing the 30-year old FDCPA and Ms. Baker hopes to find the time to make the "Fair" Debt Collection Practices Act a little more fair through several amendments:

  • Requiring immediate deletion of a disputed debt from the credit reports until the alleged debt was validated.
  • Requiring the consumer's written notification of an alleged debt prior to reporting to the credit bureaus and prior to obtaining the consumer's credit report.
  • Increasing statutory damages from $1,000 to $5,000.
  • Adding punitive damages.
  • Adding compensation for the time spent on litigation for prevailing pro se consumer litigants.

Through her work as credit consultant, Ms. Baker is aware of several collectors who deliberately and continually violate the law. Competent consumer attorneys are very busy and require large retainers and consumers representing themselves often have to invest hundreds of hours to recover at best a few thousand dollars.

For Ms. Baker, it's about a lot more than money, she wants to change credit reporting and collection practices. While she lost her 3 year legal battle against Capital One, Target and Equifax when judge Wake dismissed all her claims in case CV-04-1192-PCT-NVW relating to the refusal to report the credit limits for credit cards (on appeal in the 9th circuit court of appeals, case no. 06-16849), Target and Capital One now report the credit limits.

In her 6/21/07 Open Letter to the members of the House Committee on Financial Services at http://creditlegislation.org/activists/forum17/28.html , Ms. Baker describes major bugs in the FICO credit scoring software and numerous credit reporting and collection problems.

Instead of wasting her time on litigation, Ms. Baker's time would be better spent on documenting and publicizing her credit reporting and scoring research. She is also seeking an experienced co-author to assist with promotion and research for her book and to bring a little humor to rather serious subjects such as the real reasons for the subprime mortgage crisis and the dismal state of consumer rights in America.

More information about credit litigation and legislation, credit reporting and FICO credit scores is at Ms. Baker's web sites http://creditlegislation.org , http://creditsuit.org/ and http://creditfactors.com/.

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CHRISTINE BAKER
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