Some states have a bad check diversion program that is designed to facilitate the payment of bad checks to merchant victims. These programs usually involve a district attorney and sometimes even, a private collection agency. The idea behind these programs is to give the bad check writers a chance to make their bounced checks good without further escalation of the issue to the DA’s office. Pennsylvania has one such program and it was abused by a collection agency.
American Corrective Counseling Services is a collection agency based in California. It was involved in helping Pennsylvania merchants recoup funds on bad checks. Unfortunately, it got a little carried away. It, allegedly, sent letters to debtors on letterhead that was purportedly from district attorneys. These letters threatened the debtors with criminal action if they failed to not only pay the bad check, but if they failed to pay a $170 fee for an “accountability class.” Indeed, according to a report by the Associated Press, one elderly woman who wrote a check for $27 to Kmart, which bounced, was told she would have to pay fees of $72 to clear the matter up, “plus another $170 for the accountability class.” The case is entitled Del Campo v American Corrective Counseling, in the 9th Circuit. The violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, in this case, are enoromous.
A class action lawsuit was filed against American Corrective Counseling Services. It settled the case for $2.55 million.