DannLaw’s highly skilled attorneys use a bountiful “alphabet soup” of federal and state laws that enable us to act as private “attorney generals” who fight for consumers and hold lenders, banks, mortgage servicers, debt collectors and other corporate predators accountable for their misdeeds.
In this capacity we file suit on behalf of consumers, stop foreclosures and other collection activities, and secure justice and substantial financial damages for our clients. Yes, it’s true, the cases are often complicated and our adversaries formidable and well-heeled, but the hundreds of victories we’ve achieved in and out of court clearly demonstrate how effective these legal tools can be in the hands of attorneys who know how to use them.
RESPA: Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act
RESPA is the most important consumer protection statute enacted in the past 25 years because homeowners can now seek and receive substantial financial compensation from big banks and mortgages companies engaged in abusive and/or illegal practices.
The Act’s rigid guidelines govern every aspect of mortgage loan servicing after origination including the loan modification process. It prohibits dual tracking, which occurs when servicers foreclose on a home while a loan modification is being reviewed, requires servicers to provide homeowners and their attorneys with detailed information upon request, and establishes specific methods for resolving disputes. Servicers are subject to statutory damages of up to $2,000 per violation of the law’s provisions and may be liable for attorney’s fees and court costs.
Because successful suits can generate six-figure settlements, RESPA makes it economically feasible for attorneys who practice consumer law to take on and pursue difficult cases against well-heeled banks and mortgage companies and the “tall building” law firms that represent them. Despite the complicated nature of the cases and the time it takes to prepare and litigate them, we decided to focus on this area of practice for two reasons: first because the Act provides an effective way to help people save their homes and rebuild their lives and, second, because the financial costs violators incur may deter future abuses.
Over the past two years, the DannLaw has become a national leader in RESPA litigation. We conduct seminars and training sessions on the law and are currently serving as co-counsel with outstanding law firms that have filed RESPA actions in federal courts across the nation. We firmly believe this area of the law will expand in the years ahead as more homeowners and attorneys become aware of its potential for securing justice and just financial settlements for borrowers who have been abused.
EFTA: The Electronic Fund Transfer Act
Signed into law in 1978, EFTA, which establishes the rights and responsibilities of all parties who participate in electronic funds transfer activities, is growing in significance due to the explosion in internet commerce. The Act governs matters related to ATMs, direct deposit, pay-by-phone, payments made via the internet, electronic check conversion and debit card transactions.
The Act requires financial institutions and companies that facilitate electronic fund transfers to provide consumers with the following:
- A written summary of a consumer’s liability for unauthorized transfers;
- A number consumers can call to report unauthorized transfers;
- The fees associated with various types of transfers;
- A summary of an institution’s liability to a consumer if it fails to make or stop a transaction;
- The circumstances in which the institution can share a consumer’s information with a third party;
- A process for reporting errors;
A notice about the fees that may be charged for using a third-party ATM.
The EFTA is administered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation but consumers do have a private cause of action under the Act. Institutions that violate the EFTA may be liable for actual damages, statutory damages of up to $1,000.00, along with reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
ECOA: Equal Credit Opportunity Act
ECOA makes it unlawful for any creditor to discriminate against any applicant for any credit transaction on the basis of race, color, religion, national original, sex, marital status, age, because an applicant’s income is derived in any part from a public assistance program, or because an applicant exercised their rights under the Consumer Credit Protection Act/Truth in Lending Act. Any entity that regularly makes credit decisions: banks, retailers, bankcard companies, finance companies, and credit unions are covered by the act. ECOA liability has not, however, been expanded to include mortgage loan modifications.
The Act is a powerful tool for consumers because civil penalties can include $10,000.00 in punitive damages, actual damages as well as attorney’s fees.
FCDPA: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Enacted in 1978, the FDCPA is the most well-known federal consumer protection statute. Its primary purpose is to prevent third party debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, false, or deceptive practices to collect debts. Violators of the Act may be liable for statutory damages, actual damages, and attorney’s fees. Entities collecting debt on their own behalf are not subject to the Act.
Because the Supreme Court has yet to define many aspects of the FDCPA, its impact and application varies across the nation. For example, within the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ jurisdiction which includes Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee, consumers may only be awarded one statutory damage recovery regardless of how many times a debt collector violated the Act.
TCPA: Telephone Consumer Protection Act
The TCPA may be the most misunderstood federal consumer protection law. Its explicit purpose is to limit the use of automatic telephone dialing systems (ATDS) and artificial or prerecorded voice messages by telemarketers. Since its passage in 1991, the TCPA has been expanded to cover the use of ATDS’s and voice messages by debt collectors.
While the Act has not completely evolved to keep pace with the seismic shift away from the use of landlines to cell phones, thanks to guidance issued by the Federal Communications Commission in 2016 the TCPA now applies to cell phones if an affected consumer does not have a landline. Under the guidance, debt collectors may not call a cell phone unless the owner gives consent. That means it’s important for consumers to deny consent verbally during the initial call and then to immediately withdraw consent in writing.
Statutory damages under TCPA range from $500.00 to $1,500.00 per call and may be applied to each and every call made if it is found that a debt collector willfully violated the Act. The ability to “stack” damages serves as an effective deterrent and provides just compensation for consumers who have been victimized by aggressive debt collectors who willfully violate the law.
TILA: Truth in Lending Act
TILA governs a wide range of credit transactions including mortgage loans, credit card transactions, student loan financing, and car loans. The Act requires lenders to disclose important information to borrowers before they sign credit applications. The required disclosures include the annual percentage rate (APR), term of the loan and total costs. TILA also gives borrowers a “right of rescission” that enables them to cancel home equity loans or lines of credit and mortgage refinancing transactions under certain circumstances.
Lenders that violate TILA are subject to statutory damages, actual damages, and may be forced to pay court costs and plaintiff’s attorney’s fees. Because the Act covers a broad spectrum of issues in very specific ways, consumers, as well as lawyers who do not regularly practice this type of law, should consult with DannLaw’s highly experienced attorneys before pursuing claims.
Ohio Consumer Protection Laws
The Ohio General Assembly has enacted consumer protection laws that mirror and in some cases expand federal law. The statutes, which are designed to protect Ohioans from deceptive practices and other types of illegal activities govern telemarketing, identity theft, auto sales, condo and home sales, pyramid schemes, credit cards and many other types of transactions. In many cases consumers who have been cheated are entitled to monetary damages. Contact the DannLaw office near you to arrange a free consultation that will enable us to evaluate your situation and determine if you have a claim.