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The UCC is NOT a Defense to Debt Collectors

Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C.) and Debt Law – Fact and Fiction

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The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) offers no special protection from debt collection or debt collectors, and trying to use it that way will quickly lead to a judgment against defendants. Avoid this scam.

Introduction

There is an extremely vocal group of people who think that the U.C.C. offers special protections from debt collectors. They choose snippets of the text of the U.C.C. and highlight them in numerous videos on Youtube and in their other promotions, and they attack anyone who contradicts them. Like the (very similar) Strawman theory, however, the U.C.C. is a slender reed to support your hopes of avoiding or defeating creditors and debt collectors.

In fact, it does essentially nothing to help debt defendants. We’ll discuss the U.C.C. and then tell you what you should be doing instead of tripping over strawmen.

What is the Uniform Commercial Code?

The U.C.C. is just a model of commercial legislation for state governments to use in designing their own commercial laws. In itself, it has no legal force whatsoever, but all the states have adopted some parts of it, so most of the provisions of the UCC are incorporated into various state laws. Oddly enough, perhaps, the “Uniform” Commercial Code is NOT uniform – its drafters could not agree on every provision, and so there are competing provisions which are not the same, and thus state laws can vary on important parts of the commercial code.

Because of the federalized times we live in, and because most people confine their legal affairs to just one state, our daily lives rarely expose us to different state laws and their consequences. Still, state laws can differ both from state to state and from state to federal, and they often overlap in ways familiar to most lawyers (but out of the site of non-lawyers). The U.C.C. was designed to smooth out the way the laws overlap.

It all sounds non-controversial now, but at the time it was a big step towards protecting and encouraging interstate commerce, and in fact the U.C.C. was under construction at about the time the interstate highway system was developed.

How the UCC was Created

The U.C.C. was created by two nongovernmental legal organizations: The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, and the American Law Institute.  The document, standing alone, has no legal authority or power at all.

This is not saying the UCC is not significant – just that it is a document created by a bunch of academics that has no independent force or impact on anybody. So why is the UCC a big deal? It’s a big deal because all the states have adopted some portions of it. The UCC was designed to help legislators bring order to what was there, not force them to have the same laws. Remember, legislatures make laws, not think tanks.

The parts of the U.C.C. that have become law in your state will be reflected in your state laws, and you should look for the law in your state laws and not the U.C.C. itself. When people say “the U.C.C. does this or that,” or “requires this or that,” they’re showing you they do not understand the law. Don’t look to these people to tell you how to beat the debt collectors. Likewise, since the portions of the UCC that were adopted are just part of your state law they do NOT trump other laws and have no special, magical power.

The UCC Was Created to Serve Businesses, not Consumers

The main concerns of the drafters of the U.C.C. were the rights and abilities of businesses in relation to each other. The drafters believed that a set of laws that made businesses more predictable and reduced conflict would benefit everyone, but their concern was with business, not consumer, protection. A mere glance at the document will prove the point – it defines “bills of lading” and discusses where legal responsibility and risk shift from party to party in commercial transactions and things like that rather than the issues that concern consumers. Where the issues do have an impact on consumers, there are usually laws that override the U.C.C. and specify consumer rights.

There is almost no discussion of debt at all in the U.C.C. or in the state laws enacting it. Debt, and most particularly consumer debt, has primarily been addressed by a series of federal laws like, for example, the Truth in Lending Act and state laws based on these federal laws.

You CAN beat the debt collectors in many cases, and without even having to hire a lawyer – but your solutions will most often be in consumer protection laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or Fair Credit Reporting Act, or in the normal rules of the court.

We help you do that.

Your Legal Leg Up

Your Legal Leg Up is a website and business dedicated to helping people defend themselves from debt lawsuits without having to hire a lawyer. As you can see below, we have a number of products as well as memberships that should help you wherever you are in the process. In addition to that, our website is a resource for all. Many of the articles and materials are reserved for members, but many are available to everyone.

Products Related to this Article

We have no products related to this article because you the article addresses your fundamental approach to debt defense. You would probably find our memberships useful, however, and we have materials designed to address specific situations as they arise.

Memberships

Members get discounts on all products as well as unlimited opportunities to join our regularly scheduled teleconferences. This gives invaluable real-time assistance, answers to questions, help with strategies, and encouragement. You also get the Litigation Manual and the Three Weaknesses Report for free with membership. Find out about memberships by clicking the “About Memberships” link in the menu at the top of the page.

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What you will not receive is any marketing from other people – or much from us, either. Our goal is to make the site more useful to members and visitors, not to swamp anyone with sales materials. The information we send will have links to information or products that we think may be helpful.

Service Call Scam Warning

Tech support scams, which get people to pay for fake computer help or steal their personal information, are convincing. You might already know the signs of a tech support scam, but do your friends and family? Here’s what they need to know now:

  • Companies like Microsoft don’t call and ask for access to your computer. If you get a call like that, it’s a scam.
  • Real companies also won’t ask for your account passwords. Only scammers do.
  • Tech support scammers try to convince you they’re legitimate. They’ll pretend to know about a problem on your computer. They’ll ask you to open normal files that look alarming to make you think you need help.
  • If you do need computer help, go directly to a person, business, or website you know you can trust. General online searches are risky because they might pull up another scam.

If people you know were already scammed, here’s what to tell them:

  • If you paid with a credit or debit card, call your credit card company or bank immediately and tell them what happened.
  • If you paid with a gift card, contact the gift card company (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) ASAP to see if the funds are still on the card and can be frozen before it’s too late.
  • A tech support scammer who has access to your computer can install malware. Update your computer’s security software, scan your computer, and delete anything it identifies as a problem. Restart your computer to be sure the changes take effect. Going forward, download security updates as soon as they are available. Most operating systems have a setting to download and install security updates automatically. Use it. And install updates for your other software, including apps.
  • If the scammer got your password for a financial account, or a site like Amazon, change the password immediately. Contact the company directly to make sure nobody has broken into your account.

Report your experience to ftc.gov/complaint. You’re not alone, and reporting these scams helps law enforcement go after the people behind tech support scams.

Getting the State to do the Dirty Work

There is a disturbing trend in debt collection these days: getting the state to do the dirty work of intimidation and collection.

In some jurisdictions, notably Illinois, debt collectors are actually managing to get people who supposedly owe them money thrown into jail. This is obviously a dirty trick and happens primarily because the debt collectors are managing to set cases for trial where attendance in mandatory; whereas in most civil cases failure to show up for trial results in a default judgment, in these cases the judge issues a warrant for arrest.

The subject of this Scam Alert, however, is a little different. A scam involves trickery and deception, and that is what is happening in Missouri and elsewhere. In some places, Payday loan companies and other vulture companies are issuing short-term loans. What they do is require a post-dated check for the repayment.

Of course if you have a job – and keep it – and the post-dated check is made with that in mind, then when the money rolls in, you just pay off the debt.

Of course you do it at heart-breaking interest rates, but at least theoretically that is what you bargained for, and there’s no real confusion about what the deal is costing.

The problem comes in if something keeps you from getting that money you expected. In most loans, if you fail to make a payment you can be sued, and generally it is not a fun thing to be sued. If you have written a post-dated check, however, if you fail to make the payment (and cover the check), you are immediately subject to a civil penalty doubling the value of the check (in Missouri), and you may also be prosecuted to passing “bad checks.” Many lawmen are willingly allowing themselves to become the hitmen for these loan companies.

This is a “scam” because no one tells the people borrowing the money that failure to pay could result in an instant doubling of the loan or criminal prosecution, so payday loans, which charge such a high rate to account for the fact that people so often cannot make the payments, gets an extra level of security against default. And foists the risk of criminal enforcement onto people who don’t know what is happening.

It is also a perversion of the law.

Bad check laws were created to protect people who trusted the people writing them checks – writing a check is, legally, a sort of guarantee that the check-writer has the money to pay for the check in the bank at the moment the check is written.

Writing a check without the money in the bank is a type of fraud. But when a payday loan company accepts a post-dated check in exchange for a loan, they know the money is not there. There is no fraud when the check is written – and fraud requires that the intent to rip off the victim be present at the time the action which does rip them off (writing the check) is done. What’s happening here is that people who made a mistake about having money at a certain point in the future are being thrown into jail for that mistake. And the people on the other side of the transaction – the payday lenders – are perfectly aware that their customers have trouble with money – that’s who they target.

It is morally totally wrong for this to happen. But it is happening. So the lesson is, never pay for a loan – any loan under any circumstances – with a post-dated check. If the money isn’t in the bank, do not use a check.