St. Louis, Mo., April 5, 2011 – A Kansas business criticized for questionable debt collection practices is the focus of 220 Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaints across the U.S., including more than two dozen from the St. Louis area.
The BBB warns consumers to be extremely cautious when dealing with representatives of Regent Asset Management Solutions
or Imperial Recovery Partners
. Both have operated debt collection call centers in recent months out of the same address: 119th Street in Overland Park, Kan. Regent also had offices in Denver, Colo.
In December, a judge in Denver ruled that Regent Asset Management Solutions and its president, Michael A. Scata, were collecting debts from consumers illegally, in violation of the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Colorado Consumer Protection Act. At that time, the Colorado attorney general’s office accused Scata and his firm of misleading and deceiving consumers nationwide. Two months later, the attorney general’s office returned to court, claiming that the company had ignored an order restraining its collection activities.
Regent and Imperial Recovery Partners are considered the same business by the Kansas City BBB, which has been handling complaints and working with the St. Louis BBB to investigate company operations. Regent has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest grade possible.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said Regent ignored the law repeatedly and used threats and harassment to collect debts.
“Time and time again, this company has thumbed its nose at state and federal law,” Corey said. “In many cases, its collectors are refusing to supply even the most basic information about the debts to consumers. In other cases, it appears they are targeting people who already had settled their debts or who never owed the debts at all.”
A woman from Potosi, Mo., told the BBB that Regent representatives wrote and then phoned her numerous times about a $3,000 bank debt. Even after she confirmed with the bank that she owed no money, the calls continued. She said a representative told her, “Ma’m, we can either do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way.”
In the past 15 months, consumers from 42 states have filed complaints against Regent. Most complaints came from California (36), Missouri and Ohio (29 each), Washington (14) and Kentucky and Oregon (13 each).
In its suit, the Colorado attorney general alleged a pattern of complaints, including consumer allegations that Regent had not supplied written disclosure of the debts or followed other requirements of the Colorado Fair Debt Protection Act.
Consumers in several states have filed federal lawsuits alleging violations of the Federal Trade Commission Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Last October, a U.S. District Court judge in St. Louis awarded a woman $3,600 when no one from Regent appeared at a court hearing to respond to allegations it had violated the law. The woman, from St. Louis, alleged that the company had constantly and continuously placed calls trying to collect on an automobile loan that already had been paid. Another federal judge in St. Louis awarded a second St. Louis woman more than $9,000 last year after she alleged a Regent representative made at least nine calls to her home, trying to collect on a debt she did not owe.
A St. Louis woman who said she offered to work with Regent to pay off a $500 debt told the BBB a collector told her she would be put in jail unless she paid.
Federal court cases also have been filed against Imperial Recovery Partners.
Of the 220 complaints filed against Regent and Imperial Recovery Partners, 215 have gone unanswered.
The BBB offers the following advice to consumers contacted by a debt collection firm:
- Know your rights. Under federal and state law, debt collectors are prohibited from using threats of violence or harm against a person, property or reputation. They cannot threaten to garnish your wages unless they intend to do so, and cannot use phone calls to repeatedly harass you.
- Ask for written proof of your debt. By law, a debt collection agency must provide you with a validation notice within five days of contacting you about the debt.
- Tell the collector in writing to stop contacting you. Under federal law, a debt collector cannot continue to contact you – at work or home – once you have told them in writing to stop.
- If you have a complaint, you can file with your state’s attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) or the BBB.
- Check out a company’s BBB Business Review by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-645-3300, email@example.com, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-645-3300, firstname.lastname@example.org