IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
ATLANTA DIVISION

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,

v.

NATIONWIDE CREDIT, INC., a corporation, Defendant.

Civil Action No.

COMPLAINT FOR CIVIL PENALTIES, INJUNCTIVE AND OTHER RELIEF

Plaintiff, the United States of America, acting upon notification and authorization to the Attorney General by the Federal Trade Commission (“Commission”), for its complaint alleges that:

1. Plaintiff brings this action under Sections 5(m)(1)(A), 9, 13(b) and 16(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTC Act”), 15 U.S.C. 45(m)(1)(A), 49, 53(b) and 56(a) and Section 814 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCP Act”), 15 U.S.C. 16921, to obtain monetary civil penalties and injunctive or other relief for defendant’s violations of the FDCP Act.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

2. This Court has jurisdiction over the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1331, 1337(a), 1345, and 1355, and under 15 U.S.C. 45(m)(1)(A), 49, 53(b), 56(a) and 16921.

3. Venue in the Northern District of Georgia is proper under 15 U.S.C. 53(b) and under 28 U.S.C. 1391(b) - (c) and 1395(a).

DEFENDANT

4. Defendant Nationwide Credit, Inc. (“Nationwide”) is a Georgia corporation with its office and principal place of business located within the Northern District of Georgia at 6190 Powers Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30339. At all times relevant to this complaint, defendant has transacted business in the Northern District of Georgia and at other locations throughout the United States.

5. Defendant is a debt collector as “debt collector” is defined in Section 803(6) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692a(6).

6. The term “consumer” as used in this Complaint means any natural person obligated or allegedly obligated to pay any debt, as “debt” is defined in Section 803(5) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692a(5).

FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT

7. In 1977, Congress passed the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692-1692o, which became effective on March 20, 1978, and has been in force ever since that date. Section 814 of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 16921, authorizes the Commission to use all of its functions and powers under the FTC Act to enforce compliance with the FDCP Act by any debt collector, irrespective of whether that debt collector is engaged in commerce or meets any other jurisdictional tests set by the FTC Act, including the power to enforce the provisions of the FDCP Act in the same manner as if the violations were violations of a Federal Trade Commission trade regulation rule.

PRIOR DISTRICT COURT PROCEEDING

8. In a proceeding bearing Civil Action No. 1-92-CV-1219-MHS in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the United States of America charged defendant Nationwide, doing business as Credit Claims and Collections (“CCC”), with violating, among others, Sections 805(a)(1), 805(a)(3), 806(2), 806(5), 807(4), 807(5) and 809(b) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a)(1), (a)(3); 15 U.S.C. 1692d(2), (5); 15 U.S.C. 1692e(4), (5); and 15 U.S.C. 1692g(b).

9. On June 2, 1992, the Court issued against defendant Nationwide, with its consent, an order enjoining it from violating the FDCP Act in the manner alleged in connection with the collection of, or the attempt to collect, debts ("the Order").

10. The Order was served on Nationwide, became final and enforceable on June 2, 1992, and has remained in force and effect since that date.

11. Paragraph 5 of the Order requires that Nationwide comply with Sections 805(a)(1), 805(a)(3), 806(2), 806(5), 807(4), 807(5) and 809(b) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a)(1), (a)(3); 15 U.S.C. 1692d(2), (5); 15 U.S.C. 1692e(4), (5); and 15 U.S.C. 1692g(b).

12. Despite the terms of Paragraph 5 of the Order, Nationwide has failed to comply with the Sections of the FDCP Act set forth in that Paragraph as required.

13. Paragraph 9 of the Order requires that Nationwide distribute a copy of the Order to “all owners, officers, directors and successors and assigns of the corporation and its divisions; to all attorneys who are directly involved with the debt collection activities of the corporation; and to all employees, agents or representatives of the corporation having any direct or supervisory responsibility for the collection of debts.”

14. Despite the terms of Paragraph 9 of the Order, Nationwide has failed to distribute copies of the Order as required.

VIOLATIONS OF THE FDCP ACT

15. On numerous occasions, in connection with the collection of debts, defendant has communicated with a consumer:

a) at times or places that defendant knew or should have known to be inconvenient to the consumer, including times before 8 AM or after 9 PM local time at the consumer's location, in violation of Section 805(a)(1) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a)(1); or
 
b) at the consumer's place of employment, when defendant knew or had reason to know that the consumer's employer prohibited the consumer from receiving such communications, in violation of Section 805(a)(3) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a)(3).

16. On numerous occasions, in connection with the collection of debts, defendant has communicated with third parties, including neighbors, minor children and employers, for purposes other than acquiring location information about a consumer, without having obtained directly the prior consent of the consumer or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, and when not reasonably necessary to effectuate a post judgment judicial remedy, in violation of Section 805(b) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692c(b).

17. On numerous occasions, in connection with the collection of debts, defendant has engaged in conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse a person, in violation of Section 806 of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692d, including but not limited to the following:

a) defendant has used obscene or profane language, or language the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer, in violation of Section 806(2) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692d(2); and
 
b) defendant has caused a telephone to ring, or has engaged a person in telephone conversations, repeatedly or continuously, with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass the person at the called numbers, in violation of Section 806(5) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692d(5).

18. On numerous occasions, in connection with the collection of debts, defendant has used false, deceptive, or misleading representations or means, in violation of Section 807 of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e, including but not limited to the following:

a) defendant has falsely represented or implied that nonpayment of a debt will result in the arrest or imprisonment of a person or the seizure, garnishment, or attachment of a person's wages or property, when such action is not lawful or when neither the defendant nor the creditor has intended to take such action, in violation of Section 807(4) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e(4); and
 
b) defendant has threatened to take an action that cannot legally be taken or that defendant has not intended to take, in violation of Section 807(5) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e(5).

19. On numerous occasions, in connection with the collection of debts, defendant has:

a) failed to notify consumers of their right to dispute and obtain verification of their debts and to obtain the name of the original creditor, as required by Subsections 809(a)(3), (4) and (5) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692g(a)(3), (4) and (5), either in defendant's initial communications with consumers or within five days thereafter, in violation of those Subsections; and
 
b) continued to attempt to collect debts when consumers have notified defendant in writing within thirty days that the debts or any portion thereof were disputed and before verification of the debts was provided to consumers, in violation of Section 809(b) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692g(b). In many cases, verification was never provided.

CIVIL PENALTY AND INJUNCTION

20. Defendant Nationwide violated the FDCP Act described above, with actual knowledge or knowledge fairly implied on the basis of objective circumstances, as set forth in Section 5(m)(1)(A) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 45(m)(1)(A).

21. Section 5(m)(1)(A) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 45(m)(1)(A), Section 814(a) of the FDCP Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692l and Section 4 of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, 28 U.S.C. 2461, as amended, authorize the Court to award monetary civil penalties of not more than $10,000 [$11,000 after November 20, 1996] for each violation of the FDCP Act.

22. Each instance within five years preceding the filing of this complaint, in which defendant Nationwide has failed to comply with the FDCP Act in one or more of the ways described above, constitutes a separate violation for which plaintiff seeks monetary civil penalties.

23. Under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 53(b), this Court is authorized to issue a permanent injunction to ensure that defendant will not continue to violate the FDCP Act.

PRAYER

WHEREFORE, plaintiff respectfully requests that the Court, pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 45(m)(1)(A), 49, 53(b), and 16921 and to the Court's own equity powers:

  1. Enter judgment against defendant Nationwide and in favor of plaintiff for each violation of the FDCP Act alleged in this complaint;
  2. Award plaintiff monetary civil penalties from defendant Nationwide for each violation of the FDCP Act, occurring within five years preceding the filing of this complaint;
  3. Enjoin defendant from violating the FDCP Act;
  4. Order defendant to pay the costs of this action; and
  5. Award plaintiff such additional relief as the Court deems just and proper.
Dated:

Of counsel:

DAVID MEDINE
Associate Director for
Credit Practices

LUCY MORRIS
Assistant Director for
Credit Practices

ANTHONY E. DIRESTA
Regional Director

KATHARINE B. ALPHIN
Attorney
Atlanta Regional Office
Federal Trade Commission
60 Forsyth St., S.W.
Atlanta, GA 30305

 

 

FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

FRANK W. HUNGER
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Division
U.S. Department of Justice


RICHARD H. DEANE, JR.
United States Attorney
Northern District of Georgia

___________________________
Assistant United States Attorney

EUGENE M. THIROLF
Director
Office of Consumer Ligation
Civil Division

_________________________
Attorney
Office of Consumer Litigation
Civil Division
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D. C. 20530