Lobbyists block attempts to rein in debt agency tactics

By Paul Rolly and JoAnn Jacobsen-Wells
Salt Lake Tribune Columnists

We wrote last week about Salt Lake County residents being harassed by calls from corporations and collection agencies because their neighbors had outstanding debts. Since then, we received numerous e-mails complaining about May Company, which owns Meier & Frank.

Its collectors not only call neighbors to humiliate folks who owe it money, but reportedly send their collection agents out to pound on doors in debtors' neighborhoods. The Utah Division of Consumer Protection has received a number of complaints, but there is no state law against the practice.

But consumer protection officials say the practice is coming dangerously close to violating federal law, and neighbors being harassed by collection goons can file complaints on the Federal Trade Commission's Web site, http://www.ftc.gov.

Past attempts to enact a tough state law against tactics to bully or intimidate debtors have been thwarted by collection agency lobbyists.

Good comeback: Saturday at the Taylorsville Parade, Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott drove down the parade route in a sporty, bright yellow two-door 2004 Honda S2000 convertible.

Suddenly, a heckler yelled: "Is that a county car?"

Ott came to a full stop, smiled at the heckler and said: "No. It's a midlife crisis."

Homeland security: Sunday about 3:30 a.m., Ray Memmott and his wife were returning home from Primary Children's Medical Center, to which their 4-month-old granddaughter had been rushed because she had stopped breathing.

As Memmott exited Interstate 80 onto Bangerter Highway, the car behind him flashed its red lights and pulled him over. It was an airport security officer, even though Memmott was not on airport property, who informed Memmott he had a brake light out. He asked to see Memmott's driver license and wanted to know what the 64-year-old driver and his 60-year-old wife were doing out at that time of night.

Luckily for them, the airport cop did not call their parents.

Times are a changin': During their four-day, four-state convention in Cedar City last week, members of Beta Sigma Phi, an international women's social/service organization, held a scavenger hunt. When one team stopped at a hotel room looking for a thong, Salt Lake City resident Marge Larsen -- the longest-serving Utah member -- offered one of her flip-flop sandals, sending the competitors into hysterics.

The next morning, they presented the 83-year-old with a tiny thong panty, and a card that read: "For the woman who doesn't have everything."

We can help: We mentioned Monday that Wanda Barzee, charged in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, is on the list of 1964 South High grads who can't be found for the 40th class reunion.

Well, the East High School class of 1964 can't find Merrill Cook, who happens to be running as an independent for Salt Lake County mayor, his 11th bid for public office in Utah over the past 20 years.

Oxymoron? Mike Mitchell, of Henrieville, was shopping in the Richfield Albertsons last week and noticed that in the book section under the heading of "LDS Books" were copies of former President Clinton's autobiography.








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