A Renton-based collection agency, Convergent, will pay more than $1.6 million over letters sent to Washington debtors. The letters used the term “settlement offers,” which the state Attorney General said deceptively suggests the possibility of litigation.
As a result of the case, 1,405 Washington residents who sent money to Convergent will get back the money they sent to the company, plus interest — a total of nearly $710,000.
The payments will range from around $9 to more than $20,000, according to a statement from Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The payments will be sent from the Attorney General’s Office to affected individuals over the next two to three months. People do not need to take any action to receive this money, according to the statement.
In Washington, the statute of limitations on debt-collection lawsuits is six years after the date of default or last payment on the debt account.
Once a debt is past the statute of limitations, debt collectors can still attempt to collect on these debts, but they cannot file a collection lawsuit. None of Convergent’s 80,285 letters to Washingtonians disclosed that the debts were past the statute of limitations, which sparked Ferguson to file a consumer protection lawsuit against the company last year.
“Debt collectors are not allowed to deceive Washingtonians,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Today’s resolution holds this large, sophisticated debt collection corporation accountable for its unlawful conduct that put its profits above the law.”
According to the lawsuit, Convergent sent letters to thousands of people between 2013 and 2016 offering to “settle” old debts within a limited amount of time. The letters implied legal action and said “the full settlement must be received in our office by an agreed upon date” and to “call our office” within a fixed number of days in response to the letter.
As part of the agreement, Convergent agreed to a nationwide injunction banning it from using the words “settle” or “settlement” when attempting to collect on time-barred debts. The agreement requires the company also to disclose that the statute of limitations to sue on the debt has passed.
In total, Convergent will pay $1,675,000 to the Attorney General’s Office, including payment to cover the costs of the case and fund future investigations and enforcement of the Consumer Protection Act.
Convergent, with approximately 700 employees and $80 million in annual revenues, collected on accounts of major corporations around the country, including Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Dish Network and PayPal, as well as debt buyers like Palisades Collection, Galaxy Asset Purchasing and Pinnacle Credit Services.