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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 11:42 pm 
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NCO Group to Pay Largest FCRA Civil Penalty to Date

One of the nation’s largest debt-collection firms will pay $1.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by reporting inaccurate information about consumer accounts to credit bureaus. The civil penalty against Pennsylvania-based NCO Group, Inc. is the largest civil penalty ever obtained in a FCRA case.

According to the FTC’s complaint, defendants NCO Group, Inc.; NCO Financial Systems, Inc.; and NCO Portfolio Management, Inc. violated Section 623(a)(5) of the FCRA, which specifies that any entity that reports information to credit bureaus about a delinquent consumer account that has been placed for collection or written off must report the actual month and year the account first became delinquent. In turn, this date is used by the credit bureaus to measure the maximum seven-year reporting period the FCRA mandates. The provision helps ensure that outdated debts – debts that are beyond this seven-year reporting period – do not appear on a consumer’s credit report. Violations of this provision of the FCRA are subject to civil penalties of $2,500 per violation.

The FTC charges that NCO reported accounts using later-than-actual delinquency dates. Reporting later-than-actual dates may cause negative information to remain in a consumer’s credit file beyond the seven-year reporting period permitted by the FCRA for most information. When this occurs, consumers’ credit scores may be lowered, possibly resulting in their rejection for credit or their having to pay a higher interest rate.

The proposed consent decree orders the defendants to pay civil penalties of $1.5 million and permanently bars them from reporting later-than-actual delinquency dates to credit bureaus in the future. Additionally, NCO is required to implement a program to monitor all complaints received to ensure that reporting errors are corrected quickly. The consent agreement also contains standard recordkeeping and other requirements to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants’ compliance.

The Commission vote to authorize staff to refer the complaint and consent decree to the Department of Justice was 5-0. The Department of Justice filed this matter at the FTC’s request in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on May 12, 2004.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believeâ€

_________________
David Szwak
Chairman, Consumer Protection Section, Louisiana State Bar Association
Bodenheimer, Jones & Szwak
509 Market Street, 7th Floor
Mid South Tower
Shreveport, Louisiana 71101
318-221-6444
Fax 318-221-6555


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