Debt collector to return $475K to Washington consumers


SEATTLE (AP) — A Denver-based collection agency must return about $475,000 it collected improperly from up to 5,000 Washington consumers after state Attorney General Bob Ferguson prevailed in a lawsuit alleging unlawful debt-collection practices.

Ferguson’s office says Machol & Johannes must also forgive as much as $250,000 in fees and costs for hundreds of people, and pay $414,000 to the attorney general’s office to cover investigation costs, The Seattle Times reported.

Ferguson filed the lawsuit against Machol & Johannes in King County Superior Court in 2020, after a King County Superior Court judge notified his office that the company had filed improper wage-garnishment applications.

The agency violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act and Collection Agency Act by unlawfully assessing fees and failing to provide consumers with information about legally required garnishment exemptions, according to the lawsuit.

Machol & Johannes did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the newspaper.

Eligible consumers do not need to contact the Attorney General’s Office or Machol & Johannes to receive restitution or debt relief. Refunds and relief of costs and fees will be determined by data contained in Machol & Johannes’ records.

The Attorney General’s Office will mail checks and notices directly to eligible consumers, accompanied by a letter explaining the resolution.