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Why You Should Get It In Writing

A Negotiator Who Refuses to Put A Spoken Settlement Agreement In Writing Is Planning to Break Their Promise

Should I retain a lawyer to settle my Citibank credit card debt? I owe $20,000. A lawyer wants a $1,000 dollar retainer. I managed to get Citibank to settle for $10,000 but they refuse to put it in writing.

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Bill's Answer
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Get it in writing: Two people shaking hands over contract
Highlights

  • Written and spoken contracts have equal weight in law.
  • A written agreement is easier to enforce because all the terms and conditions are clear.
  • Get a settlement agreement in writing.

According to a lawyer who works for one of the large debt resolution companies, it is unheard of for a major credit card issuer like Citi to refuse to put a settlement agreement in writing. Is it possible you are negotiating with a collection agent who is working on behalf of Citi?

Generally, a person who refuses to reduce a negotiated settlement in writing plans to break their promise. Bills.com readers report unscrupulous collection agents verbally promise to treat the readers'  lump-sum payment as a settlement of a debt, only to learn later the collector pocketed the payment and sold the collection account to another collection agent.

A spoken contract carries the same weight in law as a written contract. However, it is difficult to prove the contents of a spoken contract. That is why some businesses have a policy to "get it in writing" when selling their products or buying supplies.

If you are negotiating directly with Citi about your debt, it would surprise me the Citi customer service representative refuses to put the proposed settlement in writing. If, on the other hand, you are dealing with a collection agent who says he or she is working on Citi's behalf, then nothing the collection agent says or does would surprise me.

Settlement Amount

You mentioned a $20,000 credit card debt and the prospects of settling the debt for $10,000. In the debt settlement world, the largest part of the bell-curve for settlement percentages ranges from 40 to 60 cents on the dollar. Some creditors have more hard-nosed policies than others, and the settlement amount always depends on the person's circumstances.

Here, you are right at the center of the range for debt settlement amounts. However, you did not share any information about your circumstances, so it is not possible to say if your settlement is reasonable and fair to both parties.

Help With Negotiating

If the lawyer is charging $200 per hour for his or her time, which is at the low end of hourly fees for lawyers, he or she is expecting to spend five hours of time negotiating with Citi and relating the result with you. That strikes me as a bit high, unless your case is complicated and you need advice on related issues you did not share.

If your case is as straightforward as it appears, you may wish to consider working with a debt settlement company. Bills.com works with debt settlement partners who may be able to help you resolve this debt. Without knowing more, it it impossible to say if one of these would do better than 50 cents on the dollar.

One other thought: Check out the Bills.com Debt Coach to learn all of your debt resolutions options and the costs of each.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

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