Mountain View, CA asked in Consumer Law, Civil Litigation, Civil Rights and Collections for California

Q: Is the towing bill (impounded vehicle) not protected by FDCPA in CA?

My car was donated in 2019. I submitted NRL online.

In Feb 2022, a towing company sent me a bill regarding my car got abandoned and I need to pay them to claim the car. The ownership was never transferred. The notice didn't tell what other thing (e.g. dispute, show proof of NRL) that I can do other than paying them.

Then, they send me notice of lien sale (reg 668). I ignored it as I submitted NRL. A month later, a debt collector suddenly harassed me 7 times within an hour. I told them I already donated the car twice, he continued accusing me liable by providing misleading info (e.g. I was the last R/O and I didn't respond to the lien sale notice), threatened to put a lien on my property, and didn't mention my right to dispute. He later also stated the impounded vehicle is not a consumer debt so it's not protected by FDCPA.

If I want to sue the debt collector for FDCPA violations, do I have a chance in the court? Is towing company not required to inform me my dispute right?

2 Lawyer Answers
Yelena Gurevich
Yelena Gurevich
  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Studio City, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Can you sue for fdcpa? Possibly. Keep in mind the statutory damages are fairly small. This is not a do it yourself matter and you should hire a consumer attorney. Fdcpa allows for attorney fees so most attorneys take such cases on contingency. There may also be fcra violations. All documents would be needed to review by the attorney.

(Note, towing company does not need to inform you of your rights to dispute).

Leon Bayer agrees with this answer

1 user found this answer helpful

Leon Bayer
Leon Bayer
  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Long Beach, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: You are right on most counts. Except I think you are wrong about these people being debt collectors. I strongly believe the people contacting are scam thieves, not legitimate debt collectors.

They probably gain access to lien sale notices through the DMV.

Then, with that info in hand, they go to work scamming anyone they can trick into paying.

Yes, you can sue them, but they use burner phone numbers and their actual location remains a deep dark web mystery. Even if you could find them, they would never pay. Crooks don't pay their bills.

It was very kind of you to donate the car. I did that once too, and I will NEVER do it again.

My old car was donated to the Salvation Army, (an otherwise excellent organization) and then sold without requiring the buyer to register the car. (Of course, the buyer never registered the vehicle and used it like a "burner -car.") I properly and timely notified DMV about the transfer.

The result of my good deed is that I received piles of parking tickets, and eventually an impound notice and notice of sale. Nothing happened to me because I had timely and properly notified the DMV. But it was annoying as hell.

We need a law making car donation charities register the vehicle in the name of the buyer - before the vehicles are released to the buyer. In the meantime, donors like you and I suffer annoyance and worse, and the state is deprived of it's rightful car registration fees.

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