Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fiat Chrysler Takes Another Hit for Safety Reporting Failures

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration isn't pulling its punches when it comes to safety reporting failures. Earlier this month, the agency hit Fiat Chrysler with its second multi-million dollar fine. The hope is the fines will make the industry more proactive when it comes to consumer safety.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Supreme Court Fails Consumers, Upholds Arbitration Clauses

Arbitration clauses are how big businesses escape class action lawsuits that hold them accountable to their customers. Despite ongoing efforts to ban mandatory arbitration clauses and class-arbitration waivers, this month the Supreme Court came out strongly in favor of the practice, upholding a coercive mandatory arbitration provision against consumers.
In DIRECTV, Inc v Imburgia, California residents signed service contracts with DirecTV that contained a mandatory arbitration provision and a class arbitration waiver. The policy said that if the “law of your state” makes class arbitration waivers unenforceable, then the whole arbitration agreement is unenforceable too.
California, at the time, was one of those states with laws making class-action waivers illegal. Specifically, in 2005, the California Supreme Court decided Discover Bank v Superior Court, which called such agreements “consumer contract[s] of adhesion” and “unconscionable under California law [that] should not be enforced.”
In 2008, two consumers sued DirecTV because of illegal early termination fees. The case dragged on in court for three years.
But then, in 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States, in AT&T Mobility LLC v Concepcion, ruled that the Federal Arbitration Act – a national law that directs how and when arbitration clauses may be used – invalidated the Discover Bank ruling. DirecTV asked the judge to send its case to mediation, but the judge refused. DirecTV appealed that decision all the way to the Supreme Court.
Instead of supporting consumers against the “take-it-or-leave-it” tactics of a major corporation, the Supreme Court said Concepcion applied even to contracts written before it was decided and the “law of your state” could only include state laws not later invalidated by the courts.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg's dissent sums up the situation:
These decisions have predictably resulted in the deprivation of consumers’ rights to seek redress for losses, and, turning the coin, they have insulated powerful economic interests from liability for violations of consumer protection laws. . . .
Today, the court holds that consumers lack not only protection against unambiguous class arbitration bans in adhesion contracts. They lack even the benefit of the doubt when anomalous terms in such contracts reasonably could be construed to protect their rights.”
The Supreme Court's decision gives service providers all the cards when it comes to mandatory arbitration. Together with Concepcion, this case has essentially said that states are not allowed to regulate the arbitration provisions of contracts signed by their citizens.
Companies must not have the power to unilaterally mandate arbitration provisions, and in so doing shield themselves from the corrective power of class action lawsuits. Since the Supreme Court has demonstrated it is unwilling to protect consumers, it will have to fall to Congress to amend the Federal Arbitration Act.
Dani K. Liblang is a consumer protection attorney with The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., in Birmingham, Michigan. She represents consumers in product defect and collections cases. If you are being harassed by debt collectors, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., today for a free consultation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Inspectors Find Credit Card Skimmers at Gas Stations Across Michigan

Identity theft is a real problem for Michigan residents. Hackers and thieves threaten credit card security online and at the register. But this year, the Michigan Department of Agriculture has found remarkable numbers of credit card skimmers at gas station pumps across the state.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Liblang Law Firm Wins Big Appeal on Attorney Fees

Consumer protection lawyers rely on court-awarded attorney fees to let them work hard for their clients. So when a trial judge issued an insulting award, The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., took the case over his head. Now a published Court of Appeals decision makes it clear: consumers need the protection of reasonable attorney fees.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bipartisan Bill Would End Mandatory Arbitration Agreements, But Only for Service Members

Mandatory arbitration agreements have hit the news. Consumers and lawmakers alike are becoming aware of the abuses happening in the collections industry that have been covered up by the arbitration process. Now federal legislators have proposed a bill that would protect consumers' right to court, but only for service members.
Mandatory arbitration agreements show up in everything from mortgage contracts to credit cards agreements. They require consumers to submit any dispute – from billing to illegal collections processes – to private arbitration, rather than going to court.
Large corporations like cell phone companies and collections agencies use mandatory arbitration agreements to cover over a multitude of sins. Often arbitrators are chosen, and paid, by the corporations. That can make it difficult for the lawyer-arbitrators to be neutral and independent.
Other times, the harm done to an individual, and their potential for recovery, are not large enough to justify the cost of preparing for and attending arbitration with an attorney. When consumers try to use a class-action lawsuit to correct the company's poor business practices, mandatory arbitration provisions can destroy the suit before it even begins.
Now legislators on both sides of the political spectrum are recognizing the problem with mandatory arbitration agreements. Democratic senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have teamed up to co-sponsor a bill that would allow consumers to opt out of arbitration and challenge repossessions or foreclosures in court.
But only for service members.
The bill would amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to make arbitration agreements signed before a dispute arises invalid and unenforceable. Senator Reed told the New York Times:
“Often service members sign contracts that include arbitration clauses buried in the fine print, and this eliminates their access to the courts, which can limit their ability to assert their rights and reach a fair resolution.”
All of that is true. But it is just as true for civilian citizens as servicemen and women. There is nothing about serving in the nation's military that makes soldiers more or less susceptible to the tactics of the collections industry.
Commentators do not believe Senate Bill 2331 is likely to become law. It was referred to committee on November 19, 2015, but is unlikely to succeed there. If the purpose of this bill was publicity of the issue, rather than passage, there is no reason the bill's sponsors could not have called for protections for all Americans, not just service members. At best, this bill will represent an incremental improvement in a system that will need further reform before it provides adequate consumer protection.
Dani K. Liblang is a consumer protection attorney at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C. She defends consumer against harassment by collections companies. If you or someone you know is facing a collections action, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., for a free consultation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

FCC and FTC Team Up for Internet Consumer Protection

The Internet today is everything from a news source, to a personal soapbox, to a shopping hub. With so much of our lives happening online, Internet consumer protection has become crucial. Now the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are teaming up to protect consumers from wrongful practices by Internet service providers (ISP).
Internet accessibility and safety have become an increasingly important part of American life. Last year, when Internet service providers threatened to throttle back connection speeds for low-paying consumers, the call went out for a change in the way the industry is regulated.
In February, 2015, the FCC responded, ruling that broadband ISPs were “common carriers” like telephone companies and utility providers. At the open meeting on the decision FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said:
“It [the Internet] is our printing press; it is our town square; it is our individual soap box and our shared platform for opportunity. That is why open Internet policies matter. That is why I support network neutrality.”
Under the legislation, ISPs must be a neutral gateway to the Internet. They cannot speed up or slow down the flow of information through their servers.
The ruling also created an overlap between FCC regulations and the Federal Trade Commission – which regulates unfair trade practices of non-common carrier industries. Until February, the FTC was in charge of Internet consumer protection.
To resolve the overlap, the two agencies created the “FCC-FTC Consumer Protection Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) laying out how they would work together going forward. The MOU says that agencies will coordinate their actions, consult on investigations, and meet to compare marketplace strategies. They also promise to collaborate on consumer education and industry outreach.
The FCC and FTC have also warned ISPs that they will be sharing consumer protection complaints and engaging in joint enforcement actions when carriers cross the line into unfair trade practices. They are already starting. They have collaborated on an ongoing FTC lawsuit against AT&T for throttling “unlimited” plans, exposing the company to a $100 million FCC forfeiture as well.
By coordinating, the FCC will get access to the FTC's years of information and institutional knowledge regarding Internet enforcement issues. The FTC, in exchange, will be able to proceed with its actions without fear of interfering with ongoing FCC investigations.
This improved efficiency can only benefit the consumers both agencies were created to protect. Coordinated enforcement actions by the FTC and the FCC will have more power to persuade service providers to change their practices and treat their customers more fairly.
Dani K. Liblang is a consumer protection attorney at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., in Birmingham, Michigan. She represents consumers who are being harassed or mistreated by collections companies. If you believe you have been the victim of unfair trade practices, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., today for a free consultation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bankruptcy Judge Rules GM May Face Punitive Damages

A recent decision by a federal bankruptcy judge has cleared the way for consumer protection attorneys to seek punitive damages against GM for deaths and injuries caused by the company's ignition failure. GM claims its bankruptcy should shield it from liability, but this judge's decision proves manufacturers can't use bankruptcy to excuse their illegal actions.
When GM declared bankruptcy in 2009, the company that emerged was called “New GM.” But an opinion from federal bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber, has shown that the New GM still has to deal with the same old problems.
On Monday, November 9, 2015, Judge Gerber ruled that consumers injured by GM's faulty ignition switches could sue New GM for punitive damages. This was an exception to the rule that a bankruptcy shields a person or company from liabilities created before the bankruptcy was initiated.
GM has faced years of scrutiny and legal challenges based on ignition switches that can slip out of position and shut off the engine. When this happens, the car shuts everything down, including power steering, brakes, and air bags. The problem caused a wave of car crashes, killing 169 people and injuring hundreds more.
Earlier this year, GM faced claims by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the company had known of the problem for over a decade before finally initiating a recall in February 2014. NHTSA and GM settled those claims in September, agreeing to pay $900 million in fines and three years of federal monitoring to avoid criminal sanctions.
The federal agency's settlement did nothing for the over 250 wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits still pending as a result of the faulty ignition switches. While GM was quick to point out it had not assumed liability for “Old GM conduct relating to Old GM vehicles,” the judge's ruling acknowledges the reality that the same people had the same knowledge before and after the bankruptcy and still the company did nothing.
Now lemon lawyers like Dani K. Liblang at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., can present evidence that New GM employees had knowledge “inherited from their tenure at Old GM or documents inherited from Old GM and may be based on knowledge acquired after” the new company was formed. If consumer protection attorneys can show that New GM employees had access to knowledge of the defects and failed to act, the company may still have to pay substantial punitive damages to those injured by their silence.
GM's 2009 bankruptcy doesn't excuse the company from failing to warn its consumers of a deadly defect in its vehicles' ignition systems. This decision gives consumers access to hold the company accountable for its behavior. If you or someone you know has been injured because of a vehicle defect, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., today for a free consultation.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What Mandatory Arbitration Means to Consumers

You may not realize it, but buried in your cell phone contract, mortgage documents, or credit card contract is a mandatory arbitration agreement. This paragraph can keep you from taking your bank to court when problems arise. Now the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is cracking down on mandatory arbitration agreements to protect consumers' rights.
Consumers used to be able to bring problems with their banks to court and ask a judge to decide if the bank had done something wrong. Then, to save companies' time and expense, business contracts started to include arbitration provisions. These agreements allowed either party to take a case out of court and have it decided informally by a neutral arbitrator (often a retired judge or attorney).
But mandatory arbitration agreements almost always turn out in favor of the company. Consumers usually don't know they have signed them, and so will not force arbitration when it would help them. When the banks do enforce arbitration provisions, the arbitrator they choose is often biased toward the industry.
Arbitration can't be appealed like a judge's ruling. When the consumer gets an arbitration decision she doesn't like she is out of luck. So bad decisions go unchallenged and companies are able to continue bad practices that hurt consumers.
When a consumer signs a mandatory arbitration agreement, he is also signing away his right to participate in class-action lawsuits against the company. When an individual's claim is small, but the company's behavior affects a large number of customers, consumer protection attorneys can use class-action lawsuits to get the company to change its ways. Class-action lawsuits combine the claims of a broad category of people into one legal action – letting them share the cost of litigation.
Mandatory arbitration agreements take away that tool. By requiring each individual claim to be taken to an arbitrator, rather than to court, companies are able to ensure they won't have to face classes of consumers whose cases are stronger together.
That's why last month the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a new regulation banning “class-action waiver” language in mandatory arbitration agreements. Under the new rule, consumers with small claims would still be able to pursue a class-action lawsuit even if they had signed mandatory arbitration agreements. If they sue individually, the banks can still remove the case from court and take it to arbitration.
Some commentators believe this move is too little to provide meaningful consumer protection. They believe CFPB should have banned mandatory arbitration agreements entirely.
A ban on mandatory arbitration agreements would protect consumers from businesses who take advantage of a corrupt arbitration system. It would restore their access to the courts. It would put tools back into the hands of consumer protection attorneys like Dani K. Liblang who fight for their clients against big businesses and their harmful practices. If you have a dispute with your bank and are worried about arbitration, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., for a free consultation today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Good News, Bad News for Consumers with Student Loans

The federal government has given and taken away key protections to consumers with student loans. Changes in department regulations and deals with the legislature will leave some borrowers cheering, and others shaking their heads.

Tuition Reimbursement Cards

The good news starts with current college students. On October 27, 2015, the Department of Education proposed new rules that would protect students from overdraft fees and other costs when trying to access their student loans.
Right now, many schools automatically deposit tuition reimbursement funds into debit or pre-paid cards, created and maintained by banks. When students overdraw their accounts, they can face up to a $37 overdraft fee, as well as burdensome penalties if the account stays negative.
The new regulation would cut back on fees associated with using campus cards, including ATM fees and transaction fees. In addition, colleges would have to provide students with a neutral list of options to receive tuition refunds. The student's preexisting bank account has to be first on the list, and the default option. Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell told the Washington Post:
“The regulations will help protect students from unreasonable account fees, safeguard taxpayer dollars, provide transparency.”

REPAYE Loan Repayment Plans

Paying back your student loans may have just gotten easier too. The Department of Education has expanded a student loan repayment plan called, Pay as You Earn (PAYE), to include all loans made directly by the government. The revised plan, called REPAYE, caps participants' monthly student loan bill at 10 percent of their income. After 20 years of payments (25 years for graduate degrees), any remaining balance is forgiven.

Auto-Dialers, Cell Phones, and Student Loans

Now for the bad news. Part of a tentative budget deal between the Obama Administration and the legislature makes it easier for student loan debt collectors to harass consumers who are past due. The deal authorized the use of auto-dialers to borrowers' cell phones.
As of June, 2015, $111.4 billion in federal student loans were in default. That's 6.9 million borrowers behind on their student loan payments. Under the new deal, those borrowers will be left vulnerable to abusive debt collection practices banned elsewhere in the industry.
The federal government has drastically changed protections for millions of Americans facing student loan debt. It has given protection from fees and provided a way out, but it has also allowed collections agencies to torment borrowers. All in the hopes of bringing a little more money into the federal budget.
Dani K. Liblang is a consumer protection attorney at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C. She helps people behind on their student loans end creditor harassment. If you know someone facing overwhelming student loans, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., today for a free consultation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Federal Law Favors Remanufactured Parts in Government Vehicles

Legislators are always looking for ways to streamline government spending without interfering with services. The federal government's latest cost cutting measure encourages federal agencies to use remanufactured parts to repair government vehicles. But the bill could spell trouble for consumers who buy used cars.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Why Consumers Shouldn't Rely on the Better Business Bureau

Whether you are looking for a reliable service provider or trying to choose the best product among a field of options, you may be inclined to look to the Better Business Bureau to help you choose. A new report from CNN Money explains why that might be a bad idea.
A CNN Money investigation recently revealed more than 100 businesses facing serious legal trouble from government regulators, but still maintained at least an A- rating from the Better Business Bureau. Here's a sample of the companies that made the list:
  • Recall Failures: Stove manufacturer Electrolux failed to issue recalls for ovens it knew malfunctioned causing flames to shout out of them, causing facial burns. The company paid a $750,000 fine to the Department of Justice in May 2014. BBB Rating: A+
  • Discriminatory Lending: Provident Funding Associates, a mortgage broker, charged African-American and Latino borrowers higher interest rates and fees based on their race. They faced a lawsuit from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Justice. The company paid $9 million in damages to borrowers. BBB Rating: A+
  • Abusive Collections Practices: Drive Time harassed borrowers and their friends and families with excessive phone calls at inappropriate times, and even at work. It also sent false information to credit bureaus. The lender paid $8 million in civil penalties and provided free credit reports to affected borrowers. BBB Rating: A-
What did all these companies have in common that let them maintain their high ratings? For one, they are all paying members. In 2013, the BBB had nearly 400,000 paying members, resulting in nearly $200 million in revenue. “Accreditation” is something that companies can purchase through membership fees.
The Better Business Bureau is a non-profit company with a set of internal criteria that it uses to rate companies – both members and non-members. But even when the BBB issues “red flags” against a company, it can still maintain a high rating based on long-time membership. Companies can also receive higher ratings for addressing complaints through the BBB system than for any other factor – including not having any complaints at all.
At the same time, government lawsuits and penalties may have such a small impact that a company can maintain an A rating while paying regulators thousands of dollars in fines. Consumer protection lawsuits rank even lower: they aren't a factor at all.
The Better Business Bureau isn't a consumer protection agency. Instead it is in the business of offering paid endorsements to companies, even in the face of regulatory penalties. Don't get fooled by their ratings. Make sure you know whether any review is paid for before you put your money on the line.
Dani K. Liblang is a consumer protection attorney at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C. She represents consumers against businesses that would take advantage of them. If you have been injured by a product defect or are facing harassing debt collections, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., today for a free consultation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fiat Chrysler in Hot Water for Failing to Report Claims to NHTSA

2015 has been a tough year for auto makers. In July, Fiat Chrysler paid $105 million and agreed to three years of close monitoring to settle charges by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that the company had not met recall requirements. Now, that close scrutiny has revealed the company significantly under reported defect claims to the agency, a mistake that could cost them even more in fines and recalls.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Volkswagen Faces International Consumer Protection Scandal

Over the past couple weeks, all eyes have turned to Volkswagen. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency directed the company to recall a half million vehicles for having deceptive emissions systems. The act sparked an international crisis and caused CEO Martin Winterkorn to resign. And that is only the beginning.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

GM Settles Ignition Switches Investigation for $900M

On September 17, 2015, GM announced it had settled the case of its faulty ignition switches with the federal government for $900 million. But whether the penalty satisfies the families of the 124 deaths caused by the defect remains to be seen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

CFPB Calls Fowl on 2 Biggest U.S. Debt Collectors

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently ordered the nation's two biggest debt collectors, Encore Capital Group and Portfolio Recovery Associates, to stop using deceptive tactics to collect bad debts. The order sends millions of dollars back to the nation's citizens and gives a clear warning to other debt collectors.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Citizens Bank to Pay Back Millions in Customers' Money

Three government agencies recently settled claims against Citizens Bank (formerly Charter One Bank in Michigan). The financial institution had resolved five years of deposit discrepancies in the company's favor - pocketing customers' money in violation of federal law.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Why You Shouldn't Give Your Cell Phone Number to Your Creditors

Mr. Hill was fed up. He had received nearly 500 calls from his creditor on his cell phone, some of them automated. He thought the Telephone Consumer Protection Act would protect him against these abusive collections practices. But he didn't realize, by giving his cell phone number to his creditor, he opened himself up to more than he bargained for.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act is designed to respond to consumer complaints of creditors using technology for abusive collections practices. The law prohibits collections companies from calling a debtor's cellphone "(other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party) using any automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice."

But Mr. Hill had provided "prior express consent." He had told his original lender to use his cell phone, rather than an outdated home phone number. Then he gave the number to the collections company, knowing that they would use it to contact him about his debt. What he didn't realize was that by providing that number to his creditor he was also opening himself up to the use of automatic dialing and automated messages by the credit company and any later collections company that was put in charge of recovering payment on the loan.

That's why you should never give your cell phone number to a creditor or debt collection company. You may think you are just making it easier for them to reach you, but you are also stripping away important consumer protections against abusive electronic telephone collections practices.

Collections companies can be aggressive enough without debtors giving them the green light. If you are being harassed by creditors who have crossed the line, contact Dani Liblang and the consumer protection team at The Liblang Law Firm PC today for a free consultation.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Happy Birthday to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Four years ago, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened its doors and began the hard work of standing up for consumers against discriminatory lending practices, predatory lending, and other abusive behaviors. As the agency celebrates its birthday, Director Richard Cordray recognizes, it has a lot more work to do.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Britax Recalls Child Safety Seats for Harness Defect

Britax, a top child safety seat company headquartered in South Carolina, recently announced a recall on its ClickTight Convertible safety seat after a report found problems with the harness. The defect could affect over 200,000 products, rendering them completely useless to protect infants and children.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What Driverless Cars Could Mean for Lemon Law Cases

Researchers at the University of Michigan's new M-City are beginning to test driverless cars in a city setting. Cityscapes, it turns out, are one of the most difficult parts of programming an autonomous vehicle. Errors in this programming could lead to a rash of lemon law injury cases where drivers, passengers, and pedestrians suffer from the poor decisions of an autonomous vehicle.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Deadline Approaching for Western Sky Predatory Lending Claims

If you are one of the 17,500 Michigan consumers paying too much for their Western Sky and CashCall loans time is running out to file your claim and get your money back. Claims have to be filed by September 18, 2015. Find out if you qualify today.
On May 14, 2015, Michigan's Attorney General's office announced a $2.2 million settlement with South Dakota-based Western Sky Financial and California company CashCall Inc. The claim: that the companies charged illegally high interest and fees for their quick-fix loans.
Internet-based Western Sky charged between 89 and 169 percent interest – well above Michigan's legal limits. The interest and fees on a $1,000 loan could leave borrowers paying more than $4,000 within two years. Other short-term, 6-month loans had an APR of 350%.
Attorney General Bill Schuette and his Corporate Oversight Division weren't going to let the Internet lenders take advantage of Michigan residents.
  “We will not tolerate any businesses attempting to skirt the rules at the expense of Michigan consumers trying to make ends meet,” said Schuette. “This settlement is a victory for the thousands of Michigan consumers who took out Western Sky loans and serves as a warning to only do business with licensed entities. I am grateful for the joint efforts and hard work by the Department of Insurance and Financial Services and my staff that secured this settlement providing significant relief for Michigan consumers.”
After the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) issued a cease and desist regulatory action against Western Sky and CashCall – demanding they stop selling unlicensed, high-interest loans in Michigan – the two companies agreed to negotiate. All Western Sky loans were capped at 7% annual interest, even if they had originally been set higher. This happens automatically without the borrower needing to do anything.
But Michigan residents with active Western Sky accounts who overpaid on high-interest loans in the past still need to act. To get a “pro rata refund” - your share of the excessive fees charged by Western Sky and CashCall – you have to make a claim with the Claim Fund Administrator, Dahl Administration, LLC.
Eligible Western Sky borrowers should have received a notice explaining the claims process by July 20, 2015. All claims must be filed by September 18, 2015. That means there's only about a month left to get your part of the $2.2 million settlement fund.
The consumer protection team at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C. can help you prepare and file your claim with the Dahl Administration, LLC and make sure you are compensated for the predatory lending practices of Western Sky and CashCall. Don't wait. If you have received a notice or believe you are entitled to compensation, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C. today to get the process started with a free consultation.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ford Announces Ignition Recall

Last month, Ford Motor Company issued a recall for 433,000 vehicles. Hoping to avoid the same problems that plagued General Motors and Takata, the auto-maker issued its recall before anyone had reported accidents or injuries.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Federal Agency Says Creditors' Rights Law Firm Uses Unfair Collections Practices

Consumer advocates have known collections company lawyers often can't prove their cases for years. Now the Consumer Financial Protection Agency says one creditors' rights law firm's tactics actually violate consumer protection laws by using unfair collections practices.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has filed a lawsuit against one of Georgia's largest “Creditors' Rights” law firms, claiming the firm's lawyers weren't meaningfully involved in their cases and that their processes violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA).

So-called Creditors' Rights law firms sue consumers for past due debts on behalf of the collections companies. In the case of the Georgia-based law firm defendant in the lawsuit, the firm's eight to 16 attorneys had filed over 350,000 lawsuits in four years. According to the Bureau, the attorneys relied on support staff and automated systems to do everything from researching cases to preparing filings – spending no more than one minute reviewing each document.

The Bureau's complaint also claimed that the lawyers for the collections companies knew the debts they were suing to collect had been purchased by debt buyers, so no one at the companies had personal knowledge of how the debts came to be. According to the Bureau, this means the lawyers knew or should have known that they wouldn't be able to prove their cases when they were filed. This could explain why the firm voluntarily dismisses about 155 collections cases every week.

This month, the federal judge refused a request to dismiss the Bureau's lawsuit. That means that the creditor's rights firm could be financially liable for filing lawsuits it knew couldn't win and misrepresenting their lawyers' involvement in the cases they file. It could fundamentally change how collections law works across the country.

The single best way to defend against these kinds of collections harassment lawsuits is to hire a lawyer as soon as you are contacted by a collections firm. Consumer advocates like the attorneys at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., know the tactics of creditor's rights attorneys, and they know how to fight them. The Bureau has found, “consumers who retained attorneys were almost four times more likely to have their cases dismissed.”

According to Michigan consumer protection attorney Dani K. Liblang:
It is great to see the CFPB taking an interest in cleaning up these practices. These days, when one’s credit history is used not only to judge creditworthiness but, also, to determine such other life necessities as insurance rates and employment eligibility, protecting the integrity of the system is even more important than ever.”

The consumer protection attorneys at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C. are ready to defend you against the harassing tactics of creditors' rights firms trying to collect on your debt. If you have been the victim of collections harassment, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., for a free consultation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ally Financial to Pay $98 Million For Discriminatory Auto Loans

In the largest settlement of any auto-loan discrimination case, Detroit-based Ally Financial has agreed to pay $98 million in fines and damages after regulators discovered discriminatory auto loan practices by its dealerships.
Ally Financial, formerly GMAC, has settled regulatory claims by the Department of Justice and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The claims said African-American borrowers were being charged an average of $300 more than their non-Hispanic white counterparts for their auto loans. Hispanics paid about $200 more.
In March 2015, the CFPB announced it would begin regulating non-bank auto lenders like Ally. These lenders make up 40 percent of the auto-loan market, lending to over 7 million consumers every year. The goal of the regulation was to crack down on “dealer financing” - where the car dealers act as middlemen between the buyer and the lender.
In Ally's case, the lender arranged loans through its dealers who were allowed to quote higher rates to their customers beyond what their credit history would indicate. Because Ally Financial did nothing to keep its dealers from charging minority buyers higher rates, it was responsible for the costs charged to its 235,000 minority consumers.
Because of its discriminatory auto loan policies, Ally Financial has agreed to pay $98 million in fines and consumer costs. Of that amount, $80 million will go to African-American, Hispanic, and Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders who got auto financing through Ally Financial between April 2011 and December 2013.
The team at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., are ready to take your calls about Ally Financial's discriminatory lending practices. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits creditors from discriminating against minorities in its loan applications and lending rates. Consumers whose rights are violated can sue the lender directly.
The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., has also represented consumers in “yo-yo lending” cases – where a dealer delivers a vehicle to the consumer, leading him or her to believe their loan has been approved, only to demand it back a week or so later because the “financing fell through.” Michigan law requires dealers to honor a consumer's written contract, even if they are later unable to sell the financing contract to the anticipated lender. If the dealer cancels the contract or tries to raise the rate, the consumer may have a case against the lender.
Dani K. Liblang at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., is a consumer protection attorney with over 30 years' experience. If you have been harmed by Ally Financial's discriminatory lending policies, she may be able to help you file your claim. Contact the Liblang Law Firm, P.C., to find out if you you qualify.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

FCC Tightens Protection Against Robocalls

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is tightening restrictions that prevent telemarketers from using robocalls and automatic dialers to reach consumers. This could open the door for class action lawsuits against auto-dialing companies.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cell Phone Providers to Pay for Cramming Schemes

Have you ever gotten horoscope readings, sports scores, or medical alerts texted to you? Did you pay for them? If so, you could see a credit on your cell phone bill. These "cramming" schemes recently resulted in two nationwide settlements that could put money back in your pocket.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Safety Administration Calls Out Fiat Chrysler

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has called Fiat Chrysler to appear at a public hearing tomorrow, July 2, 2015, to address safety concerns. The administration says the Michigan auto maker didn't issue recalls fast enough to address key safety issues.

The NHTSA is in charge of monitoring automotive manufacturers selling cars in the United States to make sure they build their cars safely and respond to reports of defects appropriately. But according to the NHTSA, Fiat Chrysler hasn't done either. According to a public notice released ahead of tomorrow's hearing:
"NHTSA has tentatively concluded that Fiat Chrysler has not remedied vehicles in a reasonable time and has not adequately remedied vehicles."
At the public hearing, Fiat Chrysler will have to answer how it met its duty to send vehicle owners notice of safety issues and recalls. At issue are 22 safety campaigns, including 20 different recalls applying to 11 million vehicles. The recalls cover everything from ignition switches to fuel tanks, air bags to axles. Some of the safety issues could affect the way Fiat Chrysler vehicles steer, brake, and handle.

This isn't the first time that the NHTSA has called Fiat Chrysler out for safety issues. After the administration sent the automaker 12 pages of questions earlier this year, Fiat Chrysler provided over 5 million pages of safety documents. The manufacturer asserts that this documentation eliminated the need for any hearing. According to Fiat Chrysler spokesperson Eric Mayne:
"The initiatives described in our response to NHTSA's Special Order reflect a deep commitment to thorough investigation and the timely remedy of safety defects. . . . While this commitment has helped FCA US LLC achieve positive results, we will not be satisfied until we firmly re-establish the trust our customers place in us."
But the mountain of documents does not explain why Fiat Chrysler failed to notify owners of safety concerns within the 60 day window provided by the NHTSA. In one case, notices in an air bag recall were over five months late. In at least 2 recalls, notices have yet to go out at all.

If the NHTSA isn't satisfied with Fiat Chrysler's responses at the Washington hearing scheduled for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, the administration could require the automaker to pay over $700 million in fines and to replace or buy back defective vehicles.

By failing to provide prompt recall notices to its auto owners, Fiat Chrysler put millions of drivers at risk. Accidents caused by these defective vehicles could cost motorists thousands of dollars, and even their lives.

Attorney Dani K. Libliang of The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., is an auto accident attorney with a passion for protecting the victims of automotive defects. If you or someone you know has been in a serious auto accident, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., today for a free consultation.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Give Graduates the Gift of Financial Advice

It's the season for high school graduation parties. Those recent graduates are making big decisions about how to pay for college. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has tools to help.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

FTC Says Michigan Dealership Laws Hurt Consumers

Even though the Big 3 were born in Detroit, Michigan residents can't buy cars directly from car companies. Instead they have to go through dealerships. But the FTC says that Michigan's dealership protection laws are anti-competitive and could hurt consumers.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Dani K. Liblang Added to National Trial Lawyers' Top 100

There are few honors higher than being invited to join the National Trial Lawyers' Top 100. Attorneys on that list represent the best in the nation – you simply can't hire anyone better. Now consumer protection attorney Dani K. Liblang is joining the ranks of this prestigious organization.
The National Trial Lawyers is a professional organization made up of the best trial lawyers from across the country – representing everyday people in plaintiff's civil litigation and criminal defense. According to Executive Director Michelle Swanner,
It is the mission of The National Trial Lawyers association to promote excellence in the legal profession through practical educational programs, networking opportunities, and legal publications that deal with current issues facing The Trial Lawyer.”
And the Top 100 are the best of the best. Selection is based on nomination by fellow lawyers and third-party research. An invitation to join is extended only to the most qualified attorneys from each state based on their qualifications of “leadership, reputation, influence, stature and public profile.” According to the National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 website,
Each of our distinguished Top 100 members possesses the knowledge, skill, experience and success held by only the finest and best lawyers in America. By combining resources, power, and influence, The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is devoted to preserving and protecting justice for all.
That is why it is such an honor that the National Trial Lawyers have invited Attorney Dani K. Liblang to join their Top 100 for Michigan. Liblang has always had a passion for fighting for the average Joe consumer. For over 30 years, she has focused on lemon law, auto accident claims, and in fighting creditors in consumer protection lawsuits. Cases she has won for her clients have literally changed the industry – giving consumers the legal ground to fight large corporations who put defective products up for sale.
Her hard work on behalf of her clients has earned her a great reputation across Michigan, and the nation. Dani K. Liblang is one of Michigan's only consumer protection lawyers to receive the highest AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, and to be certified in trial advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. She has been the chair of the State Bar of Michigan's Consumer Law Section on two separate occasions, and in 2002, Liblang was awarded the “Consumer Hero Award” by the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
Even with all these awards, Dani K. Liblang is still deeply touched by the invitation to join the National Trial Lawyers' Top 100:
As of 2014, Michigan has 34,739, licensed attorneys, so to be invited as one of the top 100 Michigan trial lawyers, feels like quite an honor. It also feels great to be invited to a join a group of lawyers dedicated to preserving justice and who are not afraid to call themselves “trial lawyers.” Every day, trial lawyers are on the front lines, standing up for ordinary citizens who have been injured or abused, discriminated against, or who have suffered economic injustice. I’m very humbled and proud to be part of this prestigious organization. 
She and her staff have worked hard to deserve this honor, and continue to bring their best to every one of their clients. If you want one of the National Trial Lawyers' Top 100 attorneys in Michigan in your corner, contact The Liblang Law Firm, PC, for a free consultation today.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Senators Propose New Consumer Privacy Protection Act

Did you get a new debit card or credit card recently? Maybe you got a notice that your online account had been compromised. A newly proposed Consumer Privacy Protection Act could make those kinds of protections universal.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

GM To Pay For 100 Deaths From Faulty Ignition Switch

Imagine driving down the freeway, bumping your steering column, and having your car shut down. That's what GM drivers have been facing for years. But now, GM is going to have to pay for it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Unfair Collections Practices: 5 Things to Watch For

If you have had a debt turned over to a collections agency, you probably have been subjected to unfair collections practices. But if you don't know what to watch for, how will you know?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chrysler Forced to Pay for Jeep Fire That Killed 4-Year-Old

What happens when a child dies in a Jeep fire as the result of a defective fuel tank? For one family in Georgia, a jury forced Chrysler to pay $150 million. But the company has yet to admit it did anything wrong.