BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Kern County District Attorney’s Office has announced it has reached a settlement with two debt collectors regarding claims of unfair practices.
The DA’s Office said the $30,000 settlement with Winn Law Group, A.P.C. and Cavalry Portfolio Services, LLC was regarding claims that the companies violated laws concerning debt collection practices.
The DA’s Office said Cavalry buys delinquent credit accounts and then attempts to collect the sums owed, sometimes retaining outside law firms — such as Winn Law Group — to help collect the debt.
Both Cavalry and Winn Law Group were defendants in the civil action brought by the office, which began an investigation after receiving a consumer complaint from a Kern County resident who was sued by defendants despite never owing any debt to Cavalry.
After first being contacted about the debt, the DA’s Office said this consumer informed both Cavalry and Winn Law Group that they had targeted the wrong person for debt collection, but said the defendants persisted in their suit to collect debt never owed by the consumer.
The DA’s Office said Cavalry and Winn Law Group eventually agreed to dismiss their lawsuit against the consumer but required that he release all claims he had against the defendants and that he agree not to report the defendants to the authorities.
The defendants also reported the consumer to the credit bureaus, then took months to inform the credit bureaus of their erroneous reporting, the DA’s Office alleges.
As part of the settlement, the DA’s Office said Cavalry and Winn Law Group are prohibited from imposing “gag clauses” on debtors that would prevent them from reporting unfair practices to authorities and intentionally violating federal and state debt collection statutes.
Defendants agreed to pay $25,000 in civil penalties and $5,000 to reimburse the costs of investigation. The DA’s Office said the agreement also ensures that it will monitor compliance with the injunction terms by reviewing any settlement agreements that the defendants enter with Kern County residents for the next year.
“We will take action to protect consumers from unfair debt collection practices, especially ones that serve to artificially deprive consumers of the assistance that government agencies can provide,” said District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer. “Fortunately, in this case both Cavalry and Winn Law Group cooperated with the investigation and an appropriate resolution was reached.”