Alvin R. Lundgren, principal of Lundgren & Associates, P.C., has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that he repeatedly violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act when attempting to collect debts by threatening to take legal action when none was intended and by misrepresenting the amount he was entitled to collect under state law. Lundgren's practice was dedicated almost exclusively to the collection of insufficient fund checks (NSF checks) on behalf of check guarantee businesses and merchants. The proposed settlement to these charges would prohibit Lundgren from violating any provisions of the FDCPA in the future and would require him to include, for the next ten years, in any written communication with a consumer from whom he is attempting to collect a debt, two disclosures explaining to the consumer their rights under the FDCPA.
Lundgren & Associates was based in the Sacramento, California, area. Alvin Lundgren now operates his business out of Mountain Green, Utah. The FTC's complaint, detailing the charges against Lundgren and his firm, alleges that on numerous occasions when attempting to collect debts, Lundgren used false, deceptive or misleading representations, including:
- falsely representing the character, amount, or legal status of a debt;
- threatening to take action that the defendants did not intend to take, such as filing a lawsuit; and
- falsely representing the compensation that which may be lawfully received by any debt collector for the collection of a debt.
Additionally, the complaint charges that the defendants represented to debtors -- when collecting for NSF checks -- that the defendants had a right immediately to collect treble damages under state civil law and/or to collect additional amounts under state criminal law. Neither of these representations was true, the FTC charged.
The proposed consent decree to settle the charges would prohibit the defendants from making the specific representations as alleged in the complaint and from violating any provisions of the FDCPA in the future. Further, the consent decree would require the defendants, for the next ten years, in every written communication with a consumer to include two mandatory disclosures:
"Collection agencies like us must comply with a federal law that grants you certain rights. One of these is the right to have us stop communicating with you about this debt. If you write to us asking us to stop, we will. But if you owe this debt, you still owe it, and your creditor may continue to collect it from you. This law is administered by the Division of Credit Practices, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580."
"If you feel that the debt is being collected by unlawful means, you may contact the Division of Credit Practices, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580."
The consent decree also contains a number of recordkeeping and reporting requirements designed to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants' compliance.
On behalf of the FTC, the Department of Justice filed the complaint and proposed consent decree in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, in Sacramento, on July 2. The consent decree is subject to court approval. The Commission vote to refer the complaint and consent decree DOJ for filing was 5-0. This case was handled by the FTC's San Francisco Regional Office.
NOTE: This consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Consent decrees have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the complaint and consent decree, as well as consumer brochures on the FDCPA, are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-3128; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
Jeffrey Klurfeld or Sylvia Kundig
San Francisco Regional Office
901 Market Street
San Francisco, California 94103
(Civil Action No.: CIV-S-98-1274)
(FTC File No.: 952 3127)
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