Countless numbers of wise and frustrated consumers like myself are leaving Bellsouth on a daily basis, in part, because of their inability to meet their customer's needs and other consumer obligations. As a result of losing countless numbers of customers to competitors, BellSouth, in its financial desperation, seeks to attempt to destroy the credit ratings of persons they incorrectly assume to be unsophisticated in collection practices.
The BellSouth account once in my name was terminated in December 2005 when I obtained telephone and internet service at a much lower rate with Comcast. Shortly afterwards I received the final bill for service, which was much higher than the bill should have been.
Pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (?FDCPA?), 15U.S.C. ? 1692g(b), BellSouth failed to verify the debt upon written request. BellSouth violated 15 U.S.C. ? 1692g(b) by failing to verify the debt before continuing collection activities and ultimately reporting the unverified debt to a national credit bureau. Section 1692g(b) describes what the debt collector must do when the consumer disputes the debt.
After sending BellSouth my initial correspondence dated February 13, 2006 disputing the amount of the final bill, BellSouth, through GC Services Limited Partnership (?GC Services?) continued to mail collection notices to me requesting payment of the unverified debt. The collection letters from GC Services are dated February 24, 2006; March 6, 2006; March 16, 2006; and March 27, 2006. BellSouth's address is listed on the statements as 85 Annex, Atlanta, GA 30385-0001.
These letters informed this consumer, among other things, ?that our efforts to collect this debt will not end with this letter,? and ?A national collection agency has tried to resolve this matter and has received no response from you disputing the amount owed.? The letters additionally noted that ?BellSouth, is entitled to the money owed and you have an obligation to pay for the services received.? Since BellSouth, through GC Services continued to pursue debt collection after timely written notice from this consumer, it violated Section 1692g(b) of the FDCPA.
Even if BellSouth had ceased with its efforts to collect the alleged debt, BellSouth still would have been obligated to verify the debt. Under 15 U.S.C. ? 1692g(a)(4), a debt collector must inform a consumer that if the consumer timely notifies the debt collector in writing that the debt is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt and that such verification will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector. The statute could not have required such a statement without intending that a debt collector be required to follow through with the promise to obtain and send verification.
BellSouth's violation of this section occurred once this consumer notified them that he disputed the debt and requested verification of the debt, and BellSouth and/or GC Services continued their collection tactics. A second and individual request for verification was sent to GC Services on or about March 1, 2006 via handwritten request on the bottom of their letter to me dated February 24, 2006. Therefore, GC Services is similarly in violation of this section. BellSouth's collection tactics continued up to this consumer being contacted by telephone on May 1, 2006 by "Ms. Allen" of the law offices of Robinson, Reagan & Young, PLLC, and a subsequent letter dated May 31, 2006 from the Robinson Firm.
The debt collector is not precluded from collecting the debt within the validation period. However, if the debt collector threatens action or demands payment within the validation period (30 days from receipt), there is a violation unless the collector explains that upon receipt of a dispute/ request for validation, collection activity will cease until verification is sent.
15 U.S.C. ? 1692g(a)(4) and ? 1692g(b) have been interpreted to mean that "a collection agency must cease collection of debt 'until' it verifies the debt," and therefore a collection agency does not escape its duty to verify the debt by ceasing to collect the debt.
It is this consumer's assertion that ? 1692g(b) is additional protection for the consumer. Section 1692g(b) is designed so that until the obligations of ? 1692g(a)(4) are met, the debt cannot be collected.
Eventually, on June 26, 2006, this consumer received several documents in the form of computer printouts from BellSouth with a return address: OCA Support, 20th Floor, 333 Commerce Street, Nashville, TN 37201.
On or about October 27, 2006, this consumer obtained a copy of his credit report from Equifax. Much to my surprise, the report indicates the following: "Robinson, Reagan & Young, PC; Collection Reported 09/2006; Assigned 04/2006; Client - Bellsouth." It appears obviously inappropriate that BellSouth and/or GC Services would assign a matter for collection in April 2006 when the first request for validation was sent to them by correspondence dated February 13, 2006 and documentation was not received until June 26, 2006.
This consumer feels strongly that the general public should be made aware of BellSouth's desperation practices amidst an influx of wise consumers terminating their BellSouth accounts in pursuit of more reasonably priced competitors who provide telephone and internet services. Similarly, BellSouth and/or GC Services should be held liable for their illegal practices.
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