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(TRENTON) — Legislation Assemblymen John J. Burzichelli, Matthew W. Milam, Wayne DeAngelo and Paul Moriarty sponsored to combat unscrupulous debt collection practices was released Thursday by an Assembly committee.

The New Jersey Fair Debt Collection Practices Act would eliminate abusive debt collection practices and provide consumers a way to dispute and validate debt information to ensure its accuracy.

“We’re doing nothing here to relieve a consumer of a rightful debt, but this is a fairness bill that’s needed more than ever to ensure consumers aren’t harassed by unscrupulous debt collectors,” said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester). “What we’re doing here is creating guidelines under which debt collectors may conduct business, defining the rights of consumers and prescribing penalties for violations. At it’s core, this is simply consumer protection.”

A recent survey by the National Association of Attorneys General showed debt collection, auto sales and home repairs leading a national list of consumer complaints for the second year in a row. Meanwhile, new federal telemarketing regulations exempt debt collectors.

“We’re not looking to halt efforts to try to collect a debt,” said Milam (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “What we’re doing here is putting a stop to harassing, oppressing, intimidating and abusive conduct by those collecting debts.”

“This is common-sense legislation meant to ensure debt collectors operate in a professional and courteous fashion and are not using unfair or unconscionable means,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Debt collectors using false, deceptive or misleading representations will be held accountable.”

“Just because someone is in debt does not mean they forfeit their rights to be treated fairly,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester). “Debt collectors may have a responsibility to get consumers to make good on what they owe, but they also have an obligation to treat consumers with respect and within the law.”

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