Consumer law is not a popularly known area of the law, but the state and federal laws which protect consumers can be powerful tools to right corporate wrongs and bring financial relief to abused consumers when utilized by a lawyer experienced in the field. 

Yes. Almost all of my cases are handled on a contingency fee basis after a free consultation with the prospective client. That means I pay for the cost of litigation, and then collect my fee and costs if and when I make a recovery for you. If there is no recovery, you owe me nothing for my time or costs. I can do so because the consumer protection laws under which I sue allow the consumer’s lawyer to collect fees and costs from corporations who violate consumer laws.

I reserve the right to offer an alternative arrangement in certain limited circumstances where consumer laws do not provide for my contingency fee such as defense of foreclosure or collection lawsuits filed against consumers.

Whenever you purchase goods or services from a corporation, a debt is collected against you, and/or your credit history and standing is affected by a corporation’s acts, consumer laws can protect you if adverse consequences arise from any of these situations.

Federal Bankruptcy law is the most well known are of consumer protection law and the most frequently used by consumers. Other laws and areas of consumer protection law they address are:

  • The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) is a federal law that controls how mortgage lenders or servicers (collectors) can make loans and account for the payments you make towards a mortgage backed loan;
  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) controls how debt collectors can collect debt from consumers by whether by phone calls, letters, or filing of legal actions;
  • Truth-in-Lending Act controls how lenders disclose the terms of credit to consumers so that they can better shop for favorable terms;
  • State law
    • Pennsylvania has a consumer protection law, the Unfair Trade Practices Consumer Protection law that protects anyone purchasing good or services for personal, family, or household use from any unfair or deceptive or fraudulent business practices by a company;
    • Lemon Law protects consumer purchasers of new motor vehicles from defects that impair the vehicle’s safety, use, or value;
  • Used Car Auto fraud is addressed by the UTPCPL and common law claims like fraud and negligence in Pennsylvania;
  • Wrongful Repossession of motor vehicles is addressed by a combination of the above noted federal and state laws.

Yes. Whenever you don’t understand your bank’s accounting of your loan, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) permits you to send a letter to the bank or loan servicer asking for an explanation of your account (called a “Qualified Written Request” or “QWR” for short). The QWR must be acknowledged within 5 days by the bank/servicer and answered within 30. If they don’t answer or the answer is not reasonable, you can sue for a proper accounting and damages.

While that’s an option, too many consumers choose that option first before knowing or understanding whether they can fight the foreclosure. Bankruptcy devastates your credit standing and stays on your credit report for ten (10) years. If your bank is making errors on your account, you need a consumer lawyer to analyze your loan account to determine whether your bank is violating any federal or state law by its errors or other bad acts.

First determine which of your loans are federally or privately made or guaranteed. If federal loans, you have several avenues of relief.

The three (3) categories of relief for federal loans are deferment, consolidation, and rehabilitation.

  1. Deferment of your payments because:
    1. Your Income is insufficient because you are:
      1. Fully employed but earnings do not exceed greater of minimum wage or 150% of federal poverty level applicable to borrower’s family size and State residence; or
      2. Unemployed not more than 6 months and eligible to receive unemployment insurance; OR registered with an employment agency and made at least 6 attempts to secure full time employment in prior 6 months.
    2. You receive federal or state public assistance benefits
    3. You are in active duty Military service or currently a student
    4. You previously qualified under another federal loan program
    5. Not available if you are in default (more than 270 days delinquent).
  2. Consolidation (to get out of Default) – this permits you to consolidate loans into one Direct Federal loan with a more affordable payment.
  3. Rehabilitation (to get out of Default)
    1. Make 9 timely payments (within 20 days of the due dates) during 10 consecutive months (if a Perkins loan, make 9 consecutive timely monthly payments).
    2. Your monthly payments are based on what you can afford (not arbitrary down payments or monthly payments a collector wants you to pay!)
  • Deferment can increase your overall loan obligation by deferred interest, etc.
  • Consolidation is quicker – no requirements of preliminary payments to qualify
  • Rehabilitation removes the default remark in your credit report
  • Collection fees of up to 18.5% can be added to the principal in both
  • Go to site www.nslds.ed.gov/nslds_SA/

    • Click on financial aid review
    • Click on accept and then Click on accept again
    • Complete appropriate information including PIN. (If PIN is unknown, link is in disclaimer language under box.)
    • If all information is correct, it will take you to student loan summary.

Eliminating or “discharging” your debt is very difficult. You must establish an inability to maintain a minimal living standard based on your current income and expenses and that it is likely to continue for a significant portion of the repayment period.

Federally guaranteed loans can be statutorily discharged for several reasons including:

  • SCHOOL CLOSURE before the student was able to complete the program.
  • FALSE CERTIFICATION of the funded education program, e.g. student didn’t qualify for program or the school was a scam.
  • UNPAID REFUNDS School failed to refund monies due the student.

While the answer is “yes”, you must receive notice of a dispute period and process to avoid such a remedy by the government. Do not hide from your mail if you are in default!

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