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Finding Common Ground

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Staffers from the FTC’s East Central Regional Office, based in Cleveland, Ohio, recently met in Pittsburgh with legal services attorneys, consumer advocates, the PA Office of the Attorney General, the US Attorney’s Office, and other federal agencies. Participants came from throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

For the past two years, other FTC regional offices have held similar Common Ground Conferences as part of the FTC’s Legal Services Collaboration. In virtually all the meetings, the hot topics have been mortgage-related scams and debt collection practices, as well as how meeting participants could work together to reach the most vulnerable consumers. We heard, for instance, about attorneys and nonprofit housing advocates working together to negotiate ways for consumers to get out from under burdensome mortgages. 

As always, the true value of the day came from the opportunity to talk with colleagues who do similar work, but from different vantage points. We were able to learn from some very experienced consumer advocates in private practice. Participants also found out about creative approaches in other states or jurisdictions — for example, some courts allow summonses in debt collection cases to include information about free resources to help people get out of debt.

We formed alliances to better help vulnerable consumers, and took away ideas to implement in our communities. Both in our regional offices and across the country, FTC staff hopes to build on these relationships and continue collaborating with consumer advocates, legal services, and law enforcement to protect the nation’s consumers.


That is great news. How about another topic to address on your upcoming agenda and To Do List? Can you concentrate on assisting students that have loans for college and that will have to obtain loans?

Waive the "interest" rates and help them setup a reasonable way to repay their loans. This would help students repay their loans at an affordable rate, afterall, isn't our goal as a country to provide a good and affordable education for all people? If the interest is eliminated, they might just have the ability to pay their loans so monies are available for new students. Isn't it time to honor our student resource?

Establish a think tank and/or commmittee to address this issue. I believe you would find there are parents as well as students burdened with college debts they have no way to pay due to the excess interest rates on the money they borrowed in good faith.

Thank you in advance for getting this item on your agenda and addressing this issue.

Is there any discussions on the use of terms, commitments, and just plain how companies write up contracts.

There really is no reason for term contracts for utilities other than pure greed and to prevent the competition from offering better deals. And to allow companies to have contracts where they can "make changes to the terms and conditions at their discretion".Or to say that if you have an issue you will be responsible for their legal fees should you try to fight it.

I understand why there is pressure to deal with bank issues, since this has hit us in the past. But cant stop looking forward It's a shame the government let the banks "pull the wool over their eyes" yet they are give grants and bonuses to companies that rely on the complexity and expense of the court systems to take advantage of consumers.

If there is discussion i suggest that utilities services be required to have in writing a 24 month agreement of the EXACT pricing(minus taxes and such) that users will have to pay. and give the users the option to pay cash for all their services.

I understand how cell phone companies require a 24 month commitment because they offer lower costs on phones. But utilities like satellite internet providers your leasing all your equipment from them. They will get their equipment back if you cancel. There is minimal loss to them. And if their competitors decide to service your area your stuck. If a new start-up utilitie want's to offer you services the major companies cant... tough luck they got you in a contract.

And the contracts you sign are so one side that they can renew your term at any time. Kinda reminds me of indentured servitude. "What, you mean your service is not working.. it is probally something on our end but were going to come out replace your box and you agreed that it restarts your commitment to you can either just cancel or sign up for another year of service..(true story satellite providers do this)

How about just fixing the laws instead of fixing individual cases. Chances are if it's a law issue that is harming people with mortages chances are the same law can be used else where. It would seem so much more productive to broaden the range of discussions to fixing contract laws as well as creating laws based around morals that a company is required to follow. If buisnesses cant profit and not manipulate the system, move over let someone else step up

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