SACRAMENTO – Today, AB 1414 (Kalra) passed its final vote in the Legislature and heads to Governor Newsom. The bill would protect consumers against predatory debt collection lawsuits by requiring debt collectors to produce and sue on a written contract rather than “common counts”.
“Common counts are a holdover from a bygone era. They make debt collection cases subject to lesser evidence standards than all other lawsuits, allow evasion of modern consumer protection standards and can cause extreme hardship for low-income families,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “I am grateful AB 1414 is going to the Governor’s desk and bringing us closer to ending this exploitative loophole. Like any other business intending to sue on a contract, creditors should be expected to produce the documents necessary to support their claim.”
"AB 1414 means the end of shortcuts and special treatment for sophisticated debt collectors," said Ted Mermin, Director of co-sponsor California Low-Income Consumer Coalition. "It increases the chances that financially vulnerable consumers who are haled into court will be treated like people rather than cogs in a debt collection machine."
“I cannot overstate the future impact of this bill on consumers who are low-income, elderly, BIPOC, or veterans,” said Elizabeth Gonzalez, Senior Supervising Staff Attorney with co-sponsor Public Counsel. “Creditors, debt collectors, and debt buyers now must prove there was a contract for an alleged debt before obtaining judgments and seizing people’s wages and bank accounts. This bill gives consumers a fair chance within the legal system. Gone are the days of collectors and debt buyers using the courts as an arm of the debt collection system.”
Debt buyers are the most frequent users of common counts and have been shown to pursue people of color more often. According to a 2017 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report, 29% of white respondents have been contacted about a debt in collection, compared to 44% of people of color. AB 1414 would prohibit the use of common counts in consumer debt collection cases for obligations incurred on or after July 1, 2024, and clarify that the term “book account” does not apply to consumer debt. Consumer debt is defined as an obligation to pay money based on a transaction in which the obligation to pay appears on the face of a note or in a written contract. To bring a lawsuit for a breach of a contract, the plaintiff must produce that contract in court.
Assemblymember Ash Kalra represents California’s 25th Assembly District, which encompasses the majority of San José, including downtown and open space areas in southeast Santa Clara County. He was first elected in 2016, becoming the first Indian American to serve in the California Legislature in state history, and was re-elected to his fourth term in 2022. Assemblymember Kalra is the Chair of the Committee on Labor and Employment and also serves as a member on the Housing and Community Development, Judiciary, Transportation, and Water, Parks, and Wildlife committees.