March 21, 2014

Know your rights: Texas Consumer Complaint Center can help

I heard that the University of Houston has a program to help with consumer problems. What is the name? How do I get in touch?

You probably are referring to the Texas Consumer Complaint Center. The Texas CCC, as it is known, was founded by the Center for Consumer Law at the University of Houston Law Center in 2007. Since that time, it has helped thousands of consumers save more than $1 million. The Texas CCC helps with just about any type of consumer problem and can be reached at or 877-839-8422.

I have a problem with collection agencies that are looking for people who do not live in my home. This has been going on for more than a year, and it is getting worse. No matter what I tell them, they keep calling. In the past three months, they have been calling as early as 8 a.m. and as late as 10 p.m. I am 74, and my wife is 72, and we like to sleep late. We usually don't answer the phone if we don't recognize the number or it is from out of state, but they continue to call. Sometimes, the collectors call more than 10 times a day. I have tried several agencies, but nobody has been able to help. Please give some advice as what to do besides changing my telephone number.

First, under federal law what the debt collectors are doing is illegal. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits calls before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. The law also prohibits calls to anyone except the person who owes money, unless the call is to try and locate someone.

Even in that case, they can call once, but if you tell them you don't know where the person is, they cannot call again. The law also prohibits a debt collector from harassing anyone. It sounds like the debt collectors have violated all of these provisions of the law.

I suggest you answer the phone and talk with the caller. Get a name and company name and make it clear you do not know the person the caller is asking about and don't know where he or she is. Then, let the caller know you believe they will be violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act if he or she calls again.

Tell them that if they do call, you are going to report them to the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Hopefully, this will end the calls.

My mother inherited our house after my father died. She is now selling it and plans on using much of the money to travel. Do I have any right to a portion of the proceeds of the sale? I think my father would have wanted me to.

When someone inherits property, he or she owns it, free and clear. Based on what you say, you had no right to the house after you father's death, and it now belongs to her. This means she can sell it and is free to use the proceeds any way she wants. If your father wanted you to have an interest in the house, he could have provided for it in his will.

I borrowed some money from my girlfriend a few months ago. We broke up last month when I was traveling alone in India. When I came back I found out my car was missing - she took my car. When I called her she said, "give my money back and you can have the car." I cannot afford to pay the entire amount, but she won't agree to payments. Please help.

In my opinion, your girlfriend has no right to the car, and has stolen it from you. Even if you owe someone money, he or she cannot simply take your property if you don't pay. For her to have the right to take the car, you would have to have signed a document giving her that right.

I suggest you let her know you will make arrangements to pay but expect the immediate return of the car. In my opinion, you should tell her that you believe she has stolen the car and you will report it to the police if she does not return it.

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