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Pennsylvania Consumer Rights Blog

Debt collection a major source of consumer complaints in Pennsylvania

Unfortunately, problems with debt collectors are something many people in Pennsylvania end up facing. This can be seen in how common complaints about debt collectors are among consumers in the state.

According to a recent report by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, in recent years, debt collection complaints have made up a big portion of the complaints the bureau has received from Pennsylvania consumers.

Before buying a used vehicle, make sure it's not flood-damaged

After Hurricane Florence, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) issued a warning to consumers to be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. An estimated 40,000 were flooded during Florence and they could end up on the market across the country. As many or more have been damaged in Hurricane Michael and from the recent catastrophic flooding in Central Texas.

The first thing to know is that flood-damaged vehicles sold in Pennsylvania should be sold on a salvage title. These vehicles have undergone an enhanced vehicle safety inspection and are issued with a "flood" or "reconstructed flood" brand, according to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.

Law firm settles malpractice claim over bad advice for $22 million

Imagine if you thought you were limiting a fee to a maximum of $2 million but were later told the fee would be $10 million. It would be quite a shock, especially if you were relying on advice from a prestigious law firm.

That's essentially what happened to an investment entity called Red Zone when it attempted to buy Six Flags through a proxy battle. In order to make the purchase, Red Zone needed a certain amount of financial advice from UBS Securities. An amendment to the contract appeared to cap the potential UBS fee at $2 million -- and the New York office of Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft allegedly told Red Zone that it did.

3rd Circuit: 'Grossly excessive' fee requests can just be denied

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, has issued an important ruling on attorney fee awards. When the requested fees are "grossly" or "outrageously" excessive, judges are not required to determine a fair amount. Instead, they have the discretion to simply disallow any fee award.

The case before the appellate court involved a bad faith claim against New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Co. in a Pennsylvania uninsured motorist case. Bad faith occurs when insurance companies attempt to renege on their policy obligations, such as by unjustly denying or delaying legitimate claims. The case was settled for $25,000, but a jury awarded the plaintiffs $100,000 in punitive damages.

Do you feel cheated by the extra space in your snack's packaging?

There are some circumstances when so-called "slack fill" -- the space in a product's packaging that isn't filled with product -- seems reasonable. Chip bags, for example, aren't filled top-to-bottom with chips, but instead have a buffer of air that helps keep the chips from getting broken. In other cases, however, slack fill seems to make the packaging misleading to consumers. If the problem is significant enough, it could be a classic case of consumer deception.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules allow a certain amount of empty space in packages to protect the product or as the result of settling. When consumers sue over excessive slack fill, courts are required to determine whether the manufacturer has a legitimate reason for it. They must also decide if it's reasonable for consumers to feel deceived.

3 consequences of having bad credit

Low wages, a shortage of full-time jobs, skyrocketing living expenses and a range of other factors have all made living in America a financial struggle for millions of people. Such complications lead many to go into debt, and debt can damage your credit if you accumulate too much. The cycle never seems to end, and, needless to say, you are not alone if you have wound up with a less-than-ideal credit score as a result.

According to CNBC, scores that fall in the range of 300 to 649 are generally considered poor. Your credit score is calculated based on a variety of factors, and your score has an impact on many aspects of your life. Consider the following three consequences of having poor credit as well as your potential options for debt relief: 

HUD accuses Facebook of enabling housing discrimination

"When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to discriminate, it's the same as slamming the door in someone's face," says a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The agency recently filed a complaint against Facebook accusing it of allowing landlords and home sellers to limit prospective tenants and buyers by race and other characteristics that are protected in the Fair Housing Act. It is illegal to discriminate in housing against members of protected groups, which include:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Disability
  • Familial status (having children and seeking non-senior housing)

Will your bank tell Facebook your account balance?

You probably assume that banking is more or less private. Your account balance, how much you spend on lattes and how much you owe on credit cards are your own business. Yes, credit rating agencies can get some of that information, but you wouldn't think advertisers could.

That could be changing, especially if you bank with one of America's biggest banks. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Facebook has approached major banks like Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Citibank. According to the Journal, Facebook wants access to customers' financial data -- including their account balances and credit card transactions.

Wells Fargo refunding customers for inappropriate add-on products

If you were charged monthly fees by Wells Fargo for pet insurance, a legal services program or identity theft services, those fees may be refunded. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is investigating the scandal-ridden bank to determine if customers were deceived, confused by, or even aware of the products and how to use them.

According to a Wall Street Journal reporter, Wells Fargo is "working with our regulators on the ongoing review" and is "reviewing add-on products sold to consumers by the bank or its service providers and if issues are found during this review, we will make things right with customers in the form of refunds or remediation."

What practice areas does legal malpractice occur in most often?

What activities are high-risk for legal malpractice? Are there certain practice areas where malpractice claims are more common? An insurance broker called Ames & Gough recently performed an annual survey of professional liability insurers to find out.

The biggest risk factor for malpractice claims is inadequate safeguards against conflicts of interest. Actual and perceived conflicts of interest have been the first or second leading cause of legal malpractice claims each year the survey has been performed.

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