A Chapter 13 case for $281* is currently being advertised by a Cleveland bankruptcy attorney. Like most things the devil is in the details.
Casting the Line
This offer has an asterisk (*) after the price. You need to scan almost to the end of the ad to find the small print. There is another asterisk near the bottom of the ad with text that says, “call for details.” This text is not quite as large nor as prominent as the $281*.
If he is charging $281 for a chapter 13 case what explanation is needed? The details you need to know are what is conveniently left out. You will be paying a lot more for this attorney to represent you. He quotes only the amount of the filing fee (prior to June 1, 2014). Even if you paid that he could not file your case. At a minimum you will need complete a credit counseling class. Those aren’t free. Chapter 13 lawyers aren’t free either. Cheaper isn’t better.
Setting the Hook
Why would an attorney do this? He wants you to call him instead of one of the other advertisers. The sole purpose of the telephone book is to make you want to call. Do you feel misled? You should. That is what is happening.
The Real Cost of Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Cleveland
Here’s a breakdown of the fees and costs normally associated with a chapter 13 case based on the court’s standard fee order:
- Attorney fee $3,000. Entire fee or up to $2200 can be deferred and paid through your plan.
- Filing fee $281.
- Credit counseling courses. Cost varies with provider. $21 for the one I use.
- Credit report $33 individual or $53 joint.
- For certain other matters the court can grant additional fees on application by the attorney for matters not included in the standard order.
Is He a Debt Relief Agency?
In addition to being misleading, this ad also violates Section 528 of the Bankruptcy Code, which went into effect October 17, 2005. Attorneys are now considered debt relief agencies. Any attorney advertising bankruptcy services is required to include the following mandatory language in his ad:
I am a debt relief agency. I help people file for bankruptcy relief under the bankruptcy code
This statement does not play well with print advertising media. For a small ad it takes up all the ad space. It must be posted on any ad for bankruptcy services by an attorney. It is the law, and I follow it. Glance over at the left column of this site. The $281* chapter 13 ad omits this language which is for YOUR protection.
What Will You Do?
Armed with this information, can you even consider an attorney whose ad does not follow the law, or tricks you to call? Bankruptcy is a bad place to cut corners.
PS: The fishing references in this article are actual marketing terms used in the telephone book advertising business.