FIRST LET ME POINT OUT THAT AT THIS TIME, WE ARE NOT SURE WHO IS THE TRUE SOURCE OF THE FOLLOWING MISREPRESENTATIONS.
WE ARE SEEKING LEGAL ADVICE AND PLAN TO PURSUE THIS TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW.
When I met my future wife in early '99, she owned a '97 Ford Escort which she had purchased in California and financed through Ford Motor Credit at 3.9% for 60 months. Later that year, she decided she wanted something sportier. Our first mistake was buying something before selling her Escort.
Since we then had two cars to pay on, we needed to get rid of her Escort quickly. It wasn't in the best shape and she owed more than it was worth, so selling it would be a problem. I suggested she call Ford Credit to ask if they could work out a deal to take the car back. She was told that yes, they would accept the car under a "voluntary surrender" policy.
According to this policy, she was told the following:
1) She could voluntarily return the car and it would NOT go on her credit report as a repossession, but instead as a voluntary return or surrender. According to the representative, this would not be viewed as negatively as a repo.
2) Stop making payments for now. Once the car was sold at auction, she could resume regular monthly payments until the balance was paid off.
3) they would pick up the car on a scheduled date which was given to my wife, at which time she could surrender the car and the keys.
My wife stayed home from work for two days waiting for them to show up. Instead, they showed up in the middle of the night after the 2nd day and took the car away.
She didn't hear anything from Ford. A few weeks later when she was informed by The Law Offices of Randolph, Boyd, Cherry and Vaughan that:
1) The car was sold at auction (which was expected).
2) She owed a balance of approximately (from memory) $7100.
3) This debt was in collection because the car was REPOSESSED.
4) The collection agency would accept a payment of $4500.
5) She would not be able to make payments on this debt. She had 30 days to pay in full. (this was reiterrated to her on at least 4 occassions)
She told them that she could not come up with that much money in 30 days. They said "OK" and hung up.
My wife was then summoned to court on Nov 8, 2000:
1) She contested the amount owed and told the judge that she was not allowed to make payment arrangements. The lawyer told the judge that she could, in fact, make payments.
2) The case was continued to Dec 13, 2000 and she was told to talk to the attorney in the hall regarding payments.
3) The attorney told her she would arrange payments for her through her office. She was also told that the attorney would cancel the continuence since my wife was willing to make payments, and that she would not need to show up on Dec 13.
In December, my wife received a repayment plan in the mail for $235/mo for 36 months. Interest was never mentioned in any documentation.
Payments were made by myself every month, automatically by my bank.
In February 2003, we received a letter stating that a new account number was assigned and that there would be a discount for a lump sum payoff.
On March 10, my wife called for a reduced payoff amount. She was given a balance of $3689.71. My records showed we owed a balance of only $1880, due to be paid in full in Nov 2003.
In follow-up calls to the firm, she was told that this difference was due to the 9% interest that was in the original contract signed with FMC. When questioning that rate, since her original rate was 3.9%, she was told that per Virginia law, if the debt went into collection, they had the right to raise the rate from 3.9% to a max of 9%. We are unsure at this point whether or not the face that she originally purchased and financed the car in California makes any difference.
In researching this situation and gathering past information, we discovered that on Dec 13, the law firm DID show up in court and my was received a default judgement against her since she was not present. Remember, the lawyer told her there wouldn't be another court date to show up to, since payment arrangements were made.
As we continued to make calls to this firm, demanding more information, her payoff amount was repeatedly lowered to $2200. We told them we'd discuss this with our lawyer.
Today (3/11/2003) we made several calls to FMC and Ford's National Recovery Center requesting a copy of my wife's original agreement and Ford's 'voluntary surrender' policy. She was told that they don't have any written policy, and that the voluntary surrender paperwork should have been filled out when they picked the car up. Remember, my wife stayed home two days waiting for them to show up, but they instead reposessed the car in the middle of the night.
We were also told by Ford's NRC that the law firm has all the documentation along with the original contract that she signed with FMC. I talked to the firm myself yesterday and was led to believe they did not have such paperwork.
To me, this seems like fraudulent law office practices. We will find out more as we press on.
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