We have seen many cases in Alabama where debt buyers such as Palisades, Asset Acceptance, Unifund, Hawker Financial, etc. are suing Alabama consumers for small debts including, at times, cell phone bills. Junk debt buyers will buy up many allegedly delinquent cell phone debts and then sue four or five years after the delinquency. This happens quite often in Alabama. The problem for these junk debt buyers (and the lawyers who represent them in filing these suits) is that federal law tells us the statute of limitations for this type of debt is only two years. 47 U.S.C. Section 415. Since these debt buyers claim they have “stepped into the shoes of the original creditor” then this law applies to the debt buyers as well as to the original cell phone companies.
So, what does it mean if Palisades, for example, sues you more than two years after a cell phone bill is delinquent? The general rule under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is that when a collection law firm and a debt collector (including debt buyers such as Palisades) file a lawsuit beyond or after the statute of limitations, this is often considered a violation of the FDCPA. This means that you may be able to sue the debt buyer and sometimes the collection law firm for violating the FDCPA.
Many times Palisades and other debt buyers obtain default judgments in the small claims suits that they file. You may not be able to set aside the judgment or obtain damages for the judgment against you, but you can still sue the debt buyer (and again sometimes the collection law firm) for the act of filing the suit against you when it had no legal right to do so under the FDCPA.
If you are currently being sued, request that the collection lawyer tell you who the original creditor is and that way you’ll know if it is related to a cell phone debt. At least in Alabama these companies almost always file suits closer to six years than two years on debt that they have bought from either the original creditor (AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc) or from another debt buyer.
If you have been sued, please consult with a consumer lawyer as soon as possible as you may be able to avoid a default judgment and the debt buyer may not be able to prove that it owns the debt. You may also have a valid lawsuit to file in federal court against the debt buyer and the collection law firm for violating the FDCPA.
If you have been sued or are currently being sued by a debt buyer and it relates to an old cell phone debt, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation on your rights to sue the debt buyer and the collection law firm for being abusive by suing you improperly.
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