According to an article out of St. Louis today the St. Louis BBB has issued a warning telling consumers not to do business with the Florida based Consumer Law Group.
According to the BBB, a Hazelwood nurse paid the company an upfront fee of $1,500 in April 2009. She got nothing in return, remains behind on her bills and now has the added burden of paying medical bills for her husband, who was recently diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, the BBB said in the alert.
The woman told the BBB that she paid Consumer Law Group $151 a month for debt-settlement services. Here’s what the BBB alert said she got for the money:
Ultimately, she said she learned that The Consumer Law Group’s only work was to mail notices to their creditors to “cease and desist communication” with the couple, noting that the couple had hired the firm to represent them. Despite repeated requests, the woman said, the firm supplied no documentation that it had done anything more. – Source
I was surprised I had not written about the Consumer Law Group previously. The Consumer Law Group is located at 23123 US 441, Suite 107, Boca Raton, Florida 33128 (source) and currently has 125 complaints with the BBB and an F rating. – Source
According to State of Florida records the Consumer Law Group president is Michael L Metzner, Esq. – Source
Questionable Statements On Their Site
In my review of the Consumer Law Group web site I did find several statements that concerned me.
Q: Is participating in the debt settlement program like filing (Chapter7) Bankruptcy?
A: No; bankruptcy is the most derogatory mark on your credit report and could likely prevent you from being approved for a credit card, car loan or mortgage for several years after you file. In some cases it can even prevent you from obtaining employment. In the debt settlement program, you are settling the amount of debt you owe to your creditors; in most cases for far less than your current balances. Each account that is settled should increase your ability to rebuild your credit. – Source
In my opinion that statement omits a lot of critical information. What it does not tell consumers is that while participation in the debt settlement program may not be reported on the credit report, the delinquency of accounts in the debt settlement program will be and any suits by creditors to recover debt included in the settlement program can be listed in the public records section of the credit report. Additionally, settlement programs where debt has defaulted will result in negative items being placed on the credit report for seven years.
Q: Why can’t I do this on my own?
A. While it is possible to do on your own, creditors are far more likely to make concessions for an established law firm. – Source
I’m not aware of any generally accepted debt settlement metrics that show a settlement by a law firm is any more beneficial or lower than from another company.
Q: What happens if my creditor is not satisfied with the debt settlement offer?
A: If a creditor finds that the proposed settlement offer is unacceptable, they are likely to counter the offer by requesting a larger settlement amount. This does not mean that we have to accept their offer, but it does mean that our Legal Team will continue to negotiate until a mutual agreement is established. Rest assured, our Legal Assistants will consult with you and discuss all counteroffers, always giving you the option of accepting or declining the counteroffer. Our Legal Team is dedicated to get the best possible settlement on your behalf. Remember, “We work for you.” – Source
They fail to mention that a creditor could always sue the consumer over the debt, get a judgment and attempt to garnish wages.
Q: Are creditors allowed to call me while I am in your program?
A: With the exception of original creditors, the answer is, “No.” Per The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), after your creditors have received our Authorization Form and Letter of Representation asking them to contact us, third-party creditors (collection agencies) are required to stop calling you and communicate only with our Law Office. If third-party creditors continue to call you, per the FDCPA they can be fined up to $1,000 per offense. This does not apply to original creditors, who have the right to continue contacting you. – Source
Again my concern is the information omitted. While it is true a third-party collector can only communicate with you once more once they get a cease and desist letter, they can also just use the inability to communicate with you as an invitation to sue. And the exception stated, the original creditor, is a pretty big exception.
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