A debt collector in Georgia has agreed to close its open collection accounts and bar its doors forever after losing a battle with the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection over a long history of collection abuses. The company, Zenith Financial Group, will pay $15,000 in damages and write off all its accounts immediately. Additionally, under its settlement with the State, Zenith and its owner will face an automatic $445,000 fine if either is caught trying to re-enter the collection industry.
"We call that the 'hammer clause,'" boasted John Sours, administrator of the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Protection.
This agreement finally seals Zenith's fate after years of complaints about its aggressive and illegal collection techniques. These included falsely threatening debtors with arrest, threatening and swearing at debtors, threatening physical violence, attempting to collect debts too old to be pursued, refusing to validate or support debts with evidence upon request, calling debtors very early in the morning and very late at night, collecting debts that do not exist, and a myriad of other claims. Each tactic appears to violate both federal law (the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) and Georgia's own collection laws.
Many of these harassment techniques are par for the course when dealing with collection scam artists, illegal fly-by-night collection shops that use harassment and threats as their main tactic. These scam groups scare up as much money as possible before falling off the radar and starting again somewhere else.
What's less common is to see these tactics used by a legitimate collection agency like Zenith. Even in a field with a reputation for unsavoriness, it's surprising that an actual, licensed and registered collector would so flippantly violate the law, and in such spectacular fashion, for so long.
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