A bill banning a debt collection practice known as “pocket service” passed the state Senate today and heads to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.
The bill passed the House 59-37 on Feb. 14, and today passed the Senate 31-17.
Pocket service allows debt collectors to “blindside consumers with default judgments in order to seize wages, bank account funds, or other assets,” according to a press release from the state attorney general’s office. It allows debt collectors to send a court summons and complaint to citizens before filing them with the superior court.
The documents do not contain a case number or court date, and the citizens often don’t realize they have a 20-day deadline to respond after receiving the documents, regardless of whether the complaint was filed in court.
The practice often leaves consumers confused, according to the press release. If they fail to respond to the complaint, debt collectors may obtain a default judgment against the consumer. Washington is one of eight states that allow the practice, according to the attorney general’s release.
“This legislation started with Washingtonians reaching out to my office complaining about this unfair practice,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson stated in the release. “I want to thank them for sharing their stories so we could do something about it. Pocket service is an unfair shortcut for debt collectors intended to blindside Washingtonians with default judgments, allowing debt collectors to seize wages, bank account funds, or even foreclose on homes. It’s about time we put a stop to this confusing practice.”