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Question:

Dear Steve,

Earlier this year, I decided to resolve my mounting credit card debt finally and achieve a settlement.

After checking various options, I chose Litigation Practice Group w/ Coast Processing – they gave me a payoff plan and a contract promising all will be resolved in about 2-3 years.

Now I am paying about 700 dollars each month to them, my debt keeps rising, and my credit score is down the drain. I contact them various times to see what is going on – one get an appointment with a lawyer, and they keep telling me it takes time no updates we let you know – I don’t feel that a solution is being found but that they rather take people’s money – what can I do to get out of this situation?

I wanted to settle my debts reasonably, making sure everything is done according to decent business processes. However, now I am finding myself in a hole with insufficient information to remediate my situation truly.
Should I cancel my payments with litigation debt relief, seek to get my money back, renegotiate with the creditors?

Would you mind letting me know what could be done?

Luise

Answer:

Dear Luise,

Some different issues are going on here.

What Did The Litigation Practice Group Salesperson Tell You?

Many consumers listen to what a debt relief salesperson says during the initial sales call. They rely on the statements made and feel that will accurately describe the program and outcomes.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Salespeople that earn income from commissions when they enroll a consumer in a program tend to say what people want to hear and not what the actual outcome will be.

You can test this yourself by calling a debt relief company and asking the salesperson to provide you with actual outcome results in writing.

Getting facts a company will stand behind can be a difficult and frustrating exercise.

The Federal Trade Commission says a debt relief company must disclose the following facts to the consumer.

  1. How much your service costs and other important terms. Before someone signs up for your service, you must disclose all fees. If you charge a specific dollar amount, you must disclose that amount. If you charge a percentage of the amount a customer would save as a result of your program, you have to disclose both the percentage and the estimated dollar amount it represents for that customer. In addition, before someone signs up, you must disclose any material restrictions, limitations, or conditions on your services. If the sales presentation includes a statement about your company’s refund policy, you must also include a clear and conspicuous disclosure of all terms and conditions of the policy. If you don’t give refunds, the Rule requires you to tell people that before they sign up for your service.

    Example 7: A debt settlement company, Company G, charges a service fee of 10% of any debt reduction it gets for its customers. Adam signs up for the program with a single credit card debt of $5,000. Based on its experience with that credit card company, Company G estimates it can settle Adam’s debt for $3,000 – a reduction of $2,000. Under the new Rule, before Adam signs up for the program, Company G must disclose that it will charge him 10% of the amount of debt reduction, or an estimated $200 (10% of $2,000).

  2. How long it will take to get the advertised results. You must tell your customers how long it will take for them to get the results you represent. For example, if your service includes debt settlement, you must give a good faith estimate of how many months or years the customer will have to wait before you make an offer to each creditor that’s likely to result in a settlement. You have to have a reasonable basis for any statements you make – for example, you can base your estimates on your experience with previous customers. Be precise: If you have experience with certain creditors, your estimate must reflect that experience. Your estimate should take into account the circumstances of each customer and the results achieved by customers in similar circumstances.
  3. How much money a customer must save before you’ll make a settlement offer to creditors. You must tell potential customers how much money or what percentage of each outstanding debt they must accumulate before you’ll make an offer to each creditor that’s likely to result in a settlement. If you’re estimating, you must have a reasonable basis for your estimate. For example, if someone owes $10,000 to a creditor and your data shows that this creditor is likely to settle the debt for $6,000, you must tell the potential customer before he or she signs for your program that he or she will have to save about $6,000 to settle the debt.
  4. The consequences if the customer fails to make timely payments. If you ask your customers to stop making timely payments to their creditors – or if your program relies on that practice – you must tell them about the possible consequences of doing so, including:
    • damage to their credit report and credit score;
    • that creditors may sue them or continue with the collections process; and
    • that they may accrue new fees and interest, which will increase the amount they owe.
  5. The customer’s rights regarding dedicated accounts. If you ask or require your customers to set aside funds, first you must make sure the funds are in an account at an insured financial institution. Next, you must disclose that:
    • the customer owns the funds held in the account;
    • the customer may withdraw from your service at any time without penalty; and
    • if the customer decides to withdraw from your service, he or she will get back all the money in the account other than fees you earned in compliance with the TSR. – Source

The FTC goes on to say, “If you provide debt relief services, it’s illegal to misrepresent any material aspect of your services, either explicitly or by implication. A material aspect of a debt relief service includes any information that is likely to affect someone’s decision to sign up for your program or to choose one program over another. Some examples of claims that would be material:

  • the amount of money or the percentage of the debt someone may save by using your service;
  • the amount of time necessary to get the results you represent;
  • the amount of money or the percentage of each outstanding debt the customer must accumulate before you’ll begin your attempts to negotiate, settle or modify the terms with creditors;
  • the amount of money or the percentage of each outstanding debt the customer must accumulate before you’ll make a bona fide offer to negotiate, settle or modify the terms with creditors;
  • the effect of your service on the customer’s creditworthiness;
  • the effect of your service on the collection efforts of any creditors or debt collectors;
  • the percentage or number of customers who have gotten the results you represent; and
  • whether your business is a bona fide nonprofit entity.

What Does the Litigation Practice Group and Coast Processing Client Agreement Say?

Client agreements for all companies typically say that they superseded what the salesperson has said. But people don’t read those multiple-page agreements; they are asked to electronically sign very closely.

But the client agreement you signed is the best place to review what services the company sold you and what your expectations should be. It is also the place to look and see what the performance guarantee is or a refund policy.

Does Coast Processing or Litigation Practice Group Value You as a Client?

If you read the client agreement and are on the same page as the companies assisting you, you can still be dissatisfied with the service you are receiving just from a customer service point of view.

Feeling as if your calls are not being returned or answers given can be very frustrating.

Delivering crummy customer service is not illegal. But I’ve observed it can lead to unhappy clients and those lead to regulator complaints.

Of all the things that a debt relief company delivers, exceptional customer service is critical to leaving a trail of happy clients. For some, it seems like world-class customer support is not a goal, and everyone suffers for it.

So What Can You Do at This Point?

Clearly, you are frustrated with the current situation. But before you make a rash decision, I think you should attempt to work out your difference first with the companies. See my guide on how to do this.

The Bigger Question

The primary question here that appears never to have been addressed is if the solution the salesperson sold and you agreed to is even the right decision for you in your situation. That remains very unclear.

You said that you were pursuing a settlement approach because you felt it was the right thing to do. But is it always?

I find people far too often attempt to try and deal with their debt from the past rather than looking at their obligations in the future.

So far, it appears you may have spent up to $25,000 over three years or so in fees, but your debt is unresolved.

When you compare that with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy that eliminates all the debt legally in about 90 days and costs less than $2,000, that’s quite a difference.

Before you leap to cancel your agreement with Litigation Practice Group and Coast Processing, I think you need to get some answers to the following questions:

  1. What is each company doing for you, and who is actually supposed to deliver those services?
  2. Who is the attorney licensed to practice law in the state you live in that represents you?
  3. Are the companies delivering the service as described in the client agreement you signed?
  4. Is the service you bought even the logical approach given what you want to achieve?
  5. What is the exact service you signed up for? Was it settlement or debt validation?

If we can get some clarity on all of this, you can develop a reasonable and organized approach to resolving this situation rather than just getting all pissed off and acting impulsively.

Would you please post a comment below and let me know what you decide to do and how it is going?

Sincerly,
Steve

You are not alone. I’m here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don’t give up.



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