Former customers of the defunct Hollywood Video are reporting that debt collection agencies have contacted them seeking payment for late fees that they do not owe.
At least a dozen customers in Southwest Virginia have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Virginia against Universal Fidelity, based in Houston, Texas, and West Bay, based in Rhode Island. Both represent Hollywood Video, according to a news release from the BBB.
Hollywood video shut its stores three years ago and filed for bankruptcy two years ago.
Universal Fidelity has a “C” grade with the BBB. West Bay has an “F” grade, the news release said.
Julie Wheeler, president of the BBB Serving Western Virginia, said customers should ask for written proof of the debt before paying.
The complaints the BBB has received, however, indicate that most customers who have been contacted do not owe late fees.
“The enormous number of complaints seems to indicate that something is wrong,” Wheeler said in the news release.
Wheeler offered this advice:
- Know your rights. Under federal and state law, debt collectors are prohibited from using threats of violence or harm against a person, property or reputation. They cannot threaten to garnish your wages unless they intend to do so, and cannot use phone calls to repeatedly harass you.
- Ask for written proof of your debt. By law, a debt collection agency must provide you with a validation notice within five days of contacting you about the debt.
- Tell the collector in writing to stop contacting you. Under federal law, a debt collector cannot continue to contact you – at work or home – once you have told them in writing to stop.
- If the company continues to badger you, you can file a complaint with your state’s attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission (http://www.ftc.gov/) or the BBB.
- Check out a company’s BBB Business Review by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 800-533-5501.