YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A woman has sued Dumont Council President Harry Stylianou’s debt collection firm, accusing it of employing deceptive and unlawful practices to try and squeeze money from her. Stylianou — a partner in the law firm since 1997 — told CLIFFVIEW PILOT he doesn’t expect the case to even make its way to court.
“We consider the lawsuit to be frivolous and without basis in law or fact,” Stylianou told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “We have already filed a responsive pleading and have absolutely no doubt that the suit will be successfully defended as have other suits filed against our firm.”
Devona Goss of Hillside says Paramus-based Eichenbaum & Stylianou violated the portion of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) that says “a debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection,” as well as the one that says “a debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.”
CLIFFVIEW PILOT has obtained a copy of a letter Eichenbaum & Stylianou sent Goss a letter offering “a very special chance” to settle the debt on her Discover card in exchange for “a lump-sum payment” at half the amount.
E&S told Goss that would “take care of your responsibility,” and “our client will consider your account as settled.”
The letter pegs the actual balance due as $5,994.99, while citing the amount of the judgment as $6,097.59.
In both cases, Goss claims, E&S violated the law.
Also: Within five days after you are first contacted, a debit collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe; the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money; and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money.
E&S failed to serve that notice, as required by law, notifying Goss, 42, of “her rights and privileges under the law to dispute the debt, request verification, and obtain the name and address of the original creditor,” the suit claims. As a result, Goss contends, she never knew that a debt of hers had gone into collection.
She is seeking actual damages, statutory damages, and attorney’s fees and costs, the filing claims.
By the end of last year, federal authorities reported, Americans’ consumer debt averaged $43,874 per person. In the process of collecting portions of that many companies — although not all — have engaged in illegal or unethical practices. Illegal foreclosures have been big topics in the news; some have openly wondered whether debt collection will be next.
For instance, Federated Department Stores Inc. — which owns Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s — agreed earlier this year to pay more than $7.5 million for improper debt collection practices involving consumers in several states, including New Jersey.
E&S has been the subject of various suits and complaints alleging similar practices, according to complaintsboard.com.
However, Stylianou told CLIFFVIEW PILOT: “My firm prides itself on following federal and state collection laws to the letter,” he told , “and it enjoys an excellent reputation within the legal community.
“I would only add that the last lawsuit filed against our firm by this attorney [lemon law lawyer Amy L. Bennecoff of Kimmel & Sulverman in Cherry Hill] earlier this year was dismissed, with prejudice.”
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