Hollywood Video Collectors Violate Law Over Movie Late Fees

By Adam Levin and Gerri Detweiler

If You’re Late Paying for the Picture, No Home Movie for You

In 1957 legendary film producer Robert Evans was picked to play the part of the matador Pedro Romero in “The Sun Also Rises.” Over the vigorous objections of superstars Ava Gardner, Ernest Hemingway and Errol Flynn, iconic movie mogul Darryl F. Zanuck ordered that Evans keep the gig uttering one of the most famous lines in moviedom, “The kid stays in the picture!” That quote inspired the title of Evans’ autobiography and the documentary about the Evans era in Hollywood.

Flash forward to January 2011, according to an Associated Press story on NPR, the State of Montana filed a lawsuit against National Credit Solutions, alleging the company engaged in unfair and deceptive debt collection practices in violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act, in connection with its attempts to collect delinquent rental and late fees due Hollywood Video and, its parent, Movie Gallery.  Movie Gallery had been the second largest video and game rental chain in the country with over 4,000 stores in the US and Canada before going bankrupt last year under pressure from category killer Netflix.

[Consumer Resource: Understanding Your Debt Collection Rights]

According to the AG, many customers never read that part of the script where their delinquent charges had been turned over to the collector and negative information written into their credit profiles. As reported by the AP, National Credit Solutions allegedly filed negative credit reports to credit reporting agencies regarding thousands of renters who owed late fees and had other charges due the Movie Gallery chain without giving them the full picture, never affording them an opportunity to dispute the charges and then hitting them with charges way beyond the cost of popcorn and a large Coke – in the most extreme cases more than $300.

According to Montana AG Steve Bullock, as quoted in the AP story,” It’s crazy to think that a Montanan would be prevented from refinancing their house or buying a new car simply because they returned ‘Caddyshack’ two days late.” I agree. Why should the citizens of Montana – or any other state – be denied the opportunity to film a home movie in anything larger than a 400 square foot apartment because they missed show time on the movie rental red carpet by a couple of days?

The NPR-AP story confirms that as a result of the complaints, the remnant rental company has directed NCS to “rescind those negative credit reports” and send customers appropriate notifications by mail.

However, this cliffhanger doesn’t have a fairytale ending quite yet. According to NCS spokesperson Brett Evans (who I seriously doubt is related to Robert), if the debts aren’t paid within 45 days, the credit scriptwriters will be at it again and the negative information re-writes will be submitted to the credit agencies.

The Attorney General’s office is seeking an injunction against NCS, restitution for the consumers and a penalty of $10,000 for each violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act.

Image by mrecuay, via Flickr

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