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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 05, 2011
Attorneys general rewind movie rental late-fees for customers nationwide

Washington Attorney General’s Office helps lead settlement with trustee of bankrupt Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video

SEATTLE – It was a bad Hollywood ending. After Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery stores closed their doors, former customers throughout the nation began complaining of collection notices added to their credit files without any warning. Not only did customers balk at excessive fees and damaged credit scores, but many claimed they didn’t owe the money in the first place.

The Washington Attorney General’s Office took issue with the allegations and helped negotiate a nationwide settlement between attorneys general and the liquidating trustee. Among the agreement’s terms is a requirement that negative information be removed from consumers’ credit reports.

“Collection laws require that consumers have a chance to pay or dispute their debts,” said Assistant Attorney General Mary Lobdell, who helped lead the multistate investigation and settlement negotiations. “But starting in October, we received a flurry of complaints from Washington residents who told us they didn’t owe the fees or were never informed of these debts before they were reported to the credit bureaus.”

Complaints to the Washington Attorney General’s Office show that a young woman was turned down for her first credit card because of the negative mark. A man said his credit card limit was slashed from $8,700 to just $600. And yet another consumer blamed the late charge from preventing him from obtaining a mortgage.

The problems started after Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010. Hollywood’s approved plan created a liquidating trust to collect an estimated $244 million in outstanding debts reportedly owed by 3.3 million customers. The trust contacted with Credit Control Services, Inc. in Massachusetts, which subcontracted to National Credit Solutions of Oklahoma.

The agreement was filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division. Under the settlement, the trustee agreed to:

  • Rescind all negative information submitted to any credit agency or bureau related to the accounts of customers in participating states. Additionally, no further credit reports will be submitted.
  • Not collect any fees or interest charges that were added to the principal debt amount.
  • Not bill customers for both a late fee and the full price of items that were supposedly not returned. For accounts that include both a late fee and a charge for a damaged, late, or never-returned product, the collection agency will only pursue the lesser charge.
  • Undertake no further collection efforts of disputed late fees or charges without first concluding that the charges are, in fact, due.
  • Comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
  • Assist the attorneys general in any effort to recover collection fees that were improperly paid by customers.

Attorneys general for the following states and the District of Columbia participated in the settlement: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

DOCUMENT: Movie Gallery Stipulation and Order


Media Contact: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager – Seattle, (206) 464-6432, kalexander@atg.wa.gov

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