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Senate Judiciary passes negotiated bill addressing consumer protections


The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee Monday passed a much-amended version of a bill that changes the Consumer Credit and Protection Act.

An earlier version had significant opposition from citizens, consumer advocates and financial institutions. More than 5,000 emails were sent to legislators in opposition to its initial draft.

Opponents said the bill gutted protections.

Anthony Majestro, chair of the West Virginia Association for Justice Legislative Committee, said the bill substitute passed on Monday was “negotiated by representatives from the banking industry, its regulators, debt collectors, consumer advocates and consumer attorneys. We thank everyone involved in the negotiations, especially Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Trump who worked with the parties over the past several weeks to reach a compromise that all the parties involved believe is fair.”

The bill will now be taken up by the full Senate.

As it stands, debt collectors will be required to inform consumers in writing if the debt collector can still file legal action against the consumer for non-payment.

The bill also clarifies the statute of limitations for when consumers can file claims against a debt collector or creditor.

And it requires consumers give 45-days notice to a creditor or debt collector before filing a civil action under the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act. This is meant to give creditors an opportunity to offer remedies and avoid litigation.

Mark Adkins with Community Bankers of West Virginia, said the bill succeeds in opening communication between consumer attorneys and banks to hopefully get issues resolved. He said he hopes future changes can be made through communication and without involving the Legislature in negotiations.

Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, said this is the second year in a row the committee has made significant changes to consumer protections.

“We came back this year and had a tremendously Draconian bill that would have ended consumer protections,” he said.

“Did you get a promise that we wouldn’t touch this again next year?,” he asked Chris Arthur with the Division of Financial Institutions.

Arthur said he did not receive a promise.

Jonathan Marshall, an attorney and member of the Consumer Protection Bar, said groups worked hard to get a “broad consensus” on the bill.

“My hope is that we don’t have to come back here again and take up valuable time. This will be the third year and the third time I have presented compromised bills to this committee. I hope this reaches a balance so we can go on to other things,” he said.

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