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Applied Card Systems, Inc., et al.; Analysis To Aid Public Comment

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Federal Trade Commission.

ACTION:

Proposed consent agreement.

SUMMARY:

The consent agreement in this matter settles alleged violations of federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition. The attached Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes both the allegations in the draft complaint that accompanies the consent agreement and the terms of the consent order—embodied in the consent agreement—that would settle these allegations.

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before September 24, 2004.

ADDRESSES:

Comments should refer to “Applied Card Systems, Inc., et al., File No. 032 3040,” to facilitate the organization of comments. A comment filed in paper form should include this reference both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to the following address: Federal Trade Commission/Office of the Secretary, Room H-159, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20580. Comments containing confidential material must be filed in paper form, as explained in the Supplementary Information section. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions. Comments filed in electronic form (except comments containing any confidential material) should be sent to the following e-mail box: consentagreement@ftc.gov.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Jessica Gray or Barbara Bolton, FTC Southeast Regional Office, 225 Peachtree Street, NE., Suite 1500, Atlanta, GA 30303, (404) 656-1350 or 656-1362.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Pursuant to Section 6(f) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 38 Stat. 721, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and Section 2.34 of the Commission's Rules of Practice, 16 CFR 2.34, notice is hereby given that the above-captioned consent agreement containing a consent order to cease and desist, having been filed with and accepted, subject to final approval, by the Commission, has been placed on the public record for a period of thirty (30) days. The following Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes the terms of the consent agreement, and the allegations in the complaint. An electronic copy of the full text of the consent agreement package can be obtained from the FTC Home Page (for August 25, 2004), on the World Wide Web, at http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​2004/​08/​index.htm. A paper copy can be obtained from the FTC Public Reference Room, Room 130-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20580, either in person or by calling (202) 326-2222.

Public comments are invited, and may be filed with the Commission in either paper or electronic form. Written comments must be submitted on or before September 24, 2004. Comments should refer to “Applied Card Systems, Inc., et al., File No. 032 3040,” to facilitate the organization of comments. A comment filed in paper form should include this reference both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to the following address: Federal Trade Commission/Office of the Secretary, Room H-159, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20580. If the comment contains any material for which confidential treatment is requested, it must be filed in paper (rather than electronic) form, and the first page of the document must be clearly labeled “Confidential.” [1] The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions. Comments filed in electronic form should be sent to the following e-mail box: consentagreement@ftc.gov.

The FTC Act and other laws the Commission administers permit the collection of public comments to consider and use in this proceeding as appropriate. All timely and responsive public comments, whether filed in paper or electronic form, will be considered by the Commission, and will be available to the public on the FTC Web site, to the extent practicable, at www.ftc.gov. As a matter of discretion, the FTC makes every effort to remove home contact information for individuals from the public comments it receives before placing those comments on the FTC Web site. More information, including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, may be found in the FTC's privacy policy, at http://www.ftc.gov/​ftc/​privacy.htm. Start Printed Page 53450

Analysis of Proposed Consent Order To Aid Public Comment

The Federal Trade Commission has accepted, subject to final approval, an agreement to a proposed consent order from Applied Card Systems, Inc. and Applied Card Systems of Pennsylvania, Inc. (collectively “respondents” or “ACS”).

The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for thirty (30) days for reception of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After the public comment period, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement and take other appropriate action or make final the agreement's proposed order.

This matter concerns the debt collection practices of ACS in attempting to collect delinquent debt owed or allegedly owed to its affiliate, Cross Country Bank (“CCB”). The complaint alleges that respondents used unfair debt collection practices in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTC Act”), 15 U.S.C. 45. The proposed complaint alleges two counts regarding ACS's debt collection practices. First, the complaint alleges that ACS has repeatedly called non-debtor third parties in an attempt to either speak with a CCB cardholder or get location information about a cardholder, after the third parties have informed ACS that they do not know the cardholder or that the cardholder does not live at their residence. ACS makes these repeated calls without a reasonable belief that the third parties now have correct or complete information about CCB's cardholders. Second, the complaint alleges that ACS has engaged in conduct purposely designed to harass third parties at the number called.

The proposed consent order tracks the complaint and contains injunctive provisions designed to prevent respondents from engaging in similar acts and practices in the future. Part I of the proposed order contains two injunctive provisions. The first prohibits respondents from communicating with any third party, for the purpose of acquiring cardholder location information, more than once without a request by the third party for subsequent calls or a reasonable belief that the third party has complete or correct location information for the debtor. The second injunctive provision of Part I prohibits respondents from engaging in abusive conduct such as continued calls and the use of abusive language.

Part II of the proposed order contains a broad fencing-in provision that pertains to all consumers. Among other things, it bars respondents from (i) Placing collection calls after 8 o'clock antemeridian and before 9 o'clock postmeridian, local time of the person called; (ii) placing calls to a consumer's place of employment if they have reason to know that such calls are employer-prohibited; (iii) using false, deceptive, or misleading representations in collection calls; (iv) collecting amounts from consumers that are not legally due; and (v) applying payments received to those accounts except as designated by consumers.

Part III of the proposed order requires the respondents to distribute copies of the order to certain company officials and employees. Parts IV through VI of the proposed order are monitoring, record keeping, and compliance provisions. Part VII is a provision “sunsetting” the order after twenty (20) years, with certain exceptions.

The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed order. It is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreement and proposed order or to modify in any way their terms.

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By direction of the Commission.

Donald S. Clark,

Secretary.

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Footnotes

1.  Commission Rule 4.2(d), 16 CFR 4.2(d). The comment must be accompanied by an explicit request for confidential treatment, including the factual and legal basis for the request, and must identify the specific portions of the comment to be withheld from the public record. The request will be granted or denied by the Commission's General Counsel, consistent with applicable law and the public interest. See Commission Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c).

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[FR Doc. 04-19968 Filed 8-31-04; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6750-01-P