Analysis of Proposed Consent Order
The Federal Trade Commission has accepted an agreement to a proposed consent order from Federated Department Stores, Inc. ("Federated"). Proposed respondent Federated conducts relevant business through, among other affiliates or subsidiaries, FDS National Bank, The Bon, Inc., Bloomingdales, Inc., Burdines, Inc., Rich's Department Stores, Inc., Macy's East, Inc., Macy's West, Inc., and Stern's Department Stores, Inc.
The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for sixty (60) days for reception of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After sixty (60) days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement and take other appropriate action or make final the agreement's proposed order.
The Commission's complaint alleges several unfair or deceptive acts or practices related to Federated's policy of inducing consumers who have filed for bankruptcy protection to sign agreements reaffirming debts owed to Federated prior to the filing of the bankruptcy petition. The complaint charges that Federated: falsely represented to consumers that signed reaffirmation agreements would be filed with the bankruptcy courts, as required by the United States Bankruptcy Code; falsely represented to consumers that debts associated with unfiled reaffirmation agreements, or agreements that were filed but not approved by the bankruptcy courts, were legally binding on the consumers; and unfairly collected debts that it was not permitted by law to collect.
The proposed consent order contains provisions designed to remedy the violations charged and to prevent Federated from engaging in similar acts in the future. The proposed consent order preserves the Commission's right to seek consumer redress if the Commission determines that redress to consumers provided through related legal actions by state attorneys general and private parties is not adequate.
Part I of the proposed order prohibits Federated from misrepresenting to consumers who have filed petitions for bankruptcy protection under the United States Bankruptcy Code that (A) reaffirmation agreements will be filed in bankruptcy court; or (B) any reaffirmation agreement is legally binding on the consumer. Part I.C of the proposed order prohibits Federated from collecting any debt (including any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) that has been legally discharged in bankruptcy proceedings and that Federated is not permitted by law to collect. Part II of the proposed order prohibits Federated from making any misrepresentation in the collection of any debt subject to a pending bankruptcy proceeding.
Part III of the proposed order contains record keeping requirements for materials that demonstrate the compliance of Federated with the proposed order. Part IV requires distribution of a copy of the consent decree to certain current and future personnel who have responsibilities related to collecting debts subject to bankruptcy proceedings.
Part V provides for notification to the Commission of any change in the respondent
affecting compliance obligations arising under the order. Part VI requires the filing of
compliance report(s). Finally, Part VII provides for the termination of the order after
twenty years under certain circumstances.