Sometimes even when you’ve done nothing wrong, your rights can be violated by debt collectors and repossession companies that refuse to follow the law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers when dishonest people repossess autos they have no legal right to take.
Although it is not the most common type of FDCPA case, the Act applies to towing companies that repossess a consumer’s vehicle without any right to do so. We recently filed a case against an auto dealership, a large auto finance company, and a towing company on behalf of a Connecticut man whose car was repossessed without legal justification. When he was unable to resolve the situation himself, he turned to us for justice.
Repossession Companies Don’t Always Follow the Rules
This story started in January 2020 when our client (we’ll call him Mr. Baker) bought a 2019 Mercedes vehicle. The dealer had purchased the car at an auto auction in Florida less than a month earlier. Mr. Baker paid the dealership $68,700 in cash and the dealer gave Mr. Baker title to the vehicle.
In August 2021, Mr. Baker was in New York City and parked his car on the street. When he returned the car was gone. Upon contacting the police, Mr. Baker learned his car had been repossessed by a towing company hired by Mercedes Benz Financial Services. Mr. Baker went to the towing company, requested his car, and showed proof of his title, but the company refused to release the car.
The towing company told Mr. Baker to call the finance company which he did that same day. The finance company refused to authorize the release of the vehicle, claiming there was a Florida lien on the car. Mr. Baker also contacted the dealership where he bought the car and was told the car was purchased in Florida with a good title.
Caught in a Vicious Circle
Faced with a dealership that said it had done nothing wrong because it sold the vehicle with a good title; a towing company that would not release his car; and a finance company that claimed a lien from two owners before, Mr. Baker had no way to recover his vehicle. He made several complaints to the Better Business Bureau, but they could not help.
Stuck between companies that were indifferent to his legal rights, Mr. Baker was frustrated, angry, and financially distressed.
How Does the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Apply When Companies Unlawfully Repossess Autos?
The FDCPA applies to situations where a third-party debt collector tries to collect a debt against the person who owes the money. One type of unfair practice specifically prohibited by the FDCPA is taking “nonjudicial action to effect dispossession or disablement of property if… there is no present right to possession of the property claimed as collateral through an enforceable security interest.” In plain English, this means it is illegal to wrongfully repossess someone’s car.
In our case, the towing company used repossession to collect a debt supposedly owed to the finance company. However, Mr. Baker didn’t owe any debt for the vehicle and never borrowed from the finance company.
Under the FDCPA, we are seeking statutory damages, actual damages, attorney’s fees, and costs from the repossession and finance companies on behalf of Mr. Baker. Schlanger Law Group has also brought legal action against the dealership and finance company on other grounds.
Additional Laws May Apply to Companies that Repossess Autos Illegally
In addition to the FDCPA, several other laws apply to Mr. Baker’s situation.
- When the towing company and the finance company refused to return possession of the vehicle to Mr. Baker, they also violated the law of conversion. This law states that it is illegal for someone to take and hold property without the owner’s consent or legal justification. Based on the illegal conversion of Mr. Baker’s vehicle, we are requesting actual damages, punitive damages (to punish the companies for their actions), attorney’s fees, and expenses.
- Under Connecticut law, repossession companies and their clients must follow certain rules. These rules include holding a valid security interest and giving notice of the repossession before and after it happens. Since the towing and finance companies do not have a valid security interest and because Mr. Baker never received notice about the repossession, both companies violated this state law. Mr. Baker deserves payment for his actual losses, statutory damages, attorney’s fees, and costs.
- Also, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) punishes intentional and wanton violations of a consumer’s rights that are done with reckless indifference to those rights. In our case, the repossession was an unjustified violation of Mr. Baker’s rights. Once he proved his title ownership, the companies showed reckless indifference to his rights when they refused to return the vehicle. Mr. Baker deserves payment of his actual losses, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and costs.
- Finally, the Dealership warranted to Mr. Baker that it was transferring not just the vehicle, but good title to the vehicle. On behalf of our client, we have filed a separate lawsuit against the dealership alleging breach of that warranty.
When Companies Illegally Repossess Autos, Schlanger Law Group is Here to Help
Every day we hear stories about consumers who have done nothing wrong, yet their rights are violated, and they have lost thousands of dollars. If you are facing an illegal repossession, unauthorized credit card or bank charges, credit reporting errors, or other types of financial misconduct that you can’t resolve on your own, contact the dedicated consumer protection lawyers at Schlanger Law Group for help.
We offer free case consultations to determine how we can protect your rights and recover the money or property you deserve. Call (212) 500-6114 or complete this contact form to schedule an appointment today.