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May 24 08:59 AM

Abusive debt-collection practices cause of concern

State Director, AARP Louisiana

Consumers must be able to defend themselves when a creditor claims they owe a debt.

But right now, legislators are considering a bill that would make consumers powerless to defend against debt collection — even when they have already paid the debt or never owed any money in the first place.

Senate Bill 174 by Sen. Danny Martiny would prevent consumers from asserting valid defenses if they don’t have a written agreement with the creditor.

AARP is greatly concerned about abusive debt collection practices that harm consumers, particularly older adults. That’s why we oppose SB 174.

Consider the 67-year-old woman who is one of over seven million per year who is a victim of credit or debit card fraud or identity theft. If she doesn’t have a written agreement in place with the creditor, she will not be able to assert a defense if she is sued.

Or consider the 78-year-old widower who settled his credit card debt in good faith. The credit card company sold his account even though he settled it, and now a new collector is trying to collect the debt that he does not owe. If he cannot produce a written agreement to show he settled his account, the new owner of the debt can stop him from defending him self for money he does not owe.

We live in a world where many of our financial accounts are handled over the phone.

When we have a problem with our credit card, we pick up the phone.

It’s not fair to prevent a consumer from defending against debt collection just because there is no written agreement showing how a problem was resolved.

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