BALTIMORE - They went out of business months ago, but the late fees from movies rented from Hollywood Video are still being billed and there's a chance you'll be hit with a notice in your mailbox.
There was no happy ending for Hollywood Video. The movie rental chain filed for bankruptcy two years ago, but their efforts to collect debt live on thanks to late fees they're still allowed to collect. Angie Barnett with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland explains, "These were fees that people legitimately owed to Hollywood and it could total about $240 million."
Barnett says to get that money, a third party has been sending out letters to some of the three-million renters who owe, with some potentially hitting mailboxes in Maryland. But if you get one, Angie says don't just blindly write a check. Instead, she recommends, "You want to ask them to provide proof that you actually owe that debt. And you want to make sure you're not paying for any other additional fees."
And court proceedings indicate those fees have been charged in the past. Several months ago, the collection company was hit with a court order , forcing them to stop adding fees to the debt. The company was also ordered to stop reporting people who didn't pay to the credit bureaus. Barnett applauds the move, "The government's on the side of the consumer in trying to make sure nobody's credit rating or credit reports are damaged or blemished by the action of this third party vendor."
As a result of that order, the collection agency can't tack on its own fees going forward and play tough guy as it works for Hollywood Video. Thanks to the order that's a role that's been left on the cutting room floor.
If you get one of these debt collection letters and have questions, you can contact the Attorney General's office 410-528-8662. You can also contact Hollywood Video directly at this email firstname.lastname@example.org .