Consumer Protection Cases of Interest

The protections for Iowa consumers are from laws enacted by the Iowa Legislature, Congress, administrative rules from state or federal agencies, the Iowa and U.S. Constitutions, and state and federal case law.

Examples of Iowa statutes that protect consumers include Iowa’s deceptive trade practices statute, the Iowa Consumer Credit Code, the Iowa Debt Collection Practices Act, the Iowa Uniform Commercial Code and the Iowa Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.

Federal Statutes include the Truth in Lending Act, the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and many other statutes.

Numerous state and federal agencies have promulgated administrative rules that protect consumers. These include the Iowa Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Due Process protections of the state and federal Constitutions are very important. Procedural Due Process prohibits government agencies or actors from taking property without Due Process of law, regardless of what some state or federal statute purports to permit. The Johnson Law Firm has successfully argued in federal court that Iowa’s garnishment statute was unconstitutional for failing to provide prompt or adequate notice for bank garnishments. Successful arguments have been made that law enforcement facilitated car repossessions are prohibited by Constitutional protections against unreasonable seizures or taking or property without procedural due process of notice and opportunity to be heard prior to law enforcement aiding a car repossession.

Cases decided by the Iowa Supreme Court or published cases of the Iowa Court of Appeals are generally controlling authority as to the interpretation of consumer laws. Other well reasoned cases can be persuasive authority that the courts will look to in deciding how to interpret the law. Sometimes these court decisions have the effect of writing new law or eliminating or restricting what was once thought to be the law. Who the judge is frequently makes a difference in how a case comes out. The current U.S. Supreme Court is an excellent example of how the liberal or conservative leanings of a judge can influence how a cases come out.

Below are some judicial opinions on issues that might be of interest to consumers visiting this web site.

Johnson v. Heritage Property Management:

This case and appeal was brought by Ray Johnson when he was in law school. It involved an apartment rental where the landlord failed to disclose a cockroach infestation in violation of the Iowa Landlord Tenant Act and the implied warranty of habitability. This case is still relevant today, as many tenants find themselves in rental units with undisclosed cockroach or bedbug infestations. Both cockroaches and bedbugs can materially affect health or safety and can cause the loss of property that must be trashed or risk spreading the bugs to a new home or apartment.

Gemini Capital Group v. Phillip New

In an appeal brought by the Johnson Law Firm, the Iowa Court of Appeals concluded the statute of limitations on a credit card debt is five years–not the ten years for a written contract.

Harvey v. Plains Township Police Department

This case discusses issues related to police involvement in depriving tenants or consumers of property. Police officers frequently assist landlords and repo agents in evictions or car repossessions. Without a court order, a police officer cannot take sides in an eviction or a car repo. They may, however, be present to keep the peace. If you are in a situation where a police officer is illegally siding with a landlord or repo agent, do exactly what the police officer asks of you and deal with the situation later by contacting a qualified attorney. Make it clear you will do whatever you are told to do by the police officer, but the eviction or repo is being done without your consent.

Hogue v. Palisades Collection and Brumbaugh & Quandahl:

In another impact case brought by the Johnson Law Firm, the United Sates District Court for the Southern District of Iowa concluded garnishment of Social Security funds from a bank account after a collector is on notice the bank account only contains exempt Social Security funds can be an unfair debt collection violation.

Cavil v. Globe Acceptance:

Damage award for an illegal car repossession with a breach of peace. Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) statutory damages awarded and attorney’s fees.

Midland Funding v. Bonecher:

Small claims ruling on credit card collection where court ruled debt buyer failed to meet its burden of proof. Third party debt buyers frequently have difficulties meeting their burden of proof on debts they purchased for pennies on the dollar and for which they have very little documentation of the debt.

Capital One Bank v. Ryan:

Iowa small claims case denying judgment on an alleged credit card debt where collector failed to meet requirements of Iowa law on itemization of the debt and generally failed to prove case.

Iowa Attorney General’s Conclusion on Payday Lenders:

The Iowa Attorney General has concluded that payday lenders who receive checks from consumers that do not clear cannot threaten criminal prosecution, and it is an unfair debt collection violation if they do.  Unfortunately, many payday lenders still threaten criminal prosecution for checks even though they are aware the check will not clear at the time it is written. After all, that is the purpose of the payday loan. The inability to pay back a loan is not a crime. Despite the best of intentions, there are many consumers who experience unexpected financial difficulties, and that is especially true for those obtaining loans from payday lenders

Portfolio Acquisitions, L.L.C. v. Feltman – Statute of Limitations on Credit Card Debt

Debt collectors in Iowa argue in their credit card collection lawsuits the statute of limitations on a credit card debt is the ten year statute of limitations for a written contract. The Portfolio Acquisitions case addresses the issue of the proper statute of limitations for the collection of distressed credit card debt. The Illinois Court concluded the five year period for “unwritten contracts” was to be used as the applicable statute of limitations. The ten year period for “written contracts” commonly argued by debt collection agencies did not apply because to qualify as a written contract, all essential contract terms had to be established by documentary evidence without oral testimony. Since debt buyers such as Portfolio Acquisitions can rarely produce the necessary documents at trial, the longer statute of limitations is inapplicable and the appropriate statute of limitations is the shorter five year statute of limitations for oral contracts. The case was briefed and argued by advocates from the National Association of Consumer Advocates.