Maryland's highest court on Wednesday approved changes to a set of rules that require debt collectors to provide greater proof that they are entitled to sue consumers, according to a Baltimore-based legal advocacy group.

The Maryland Court of Appeals agreed to revise three rules of the Maryland Rules of Procedure that will, in part, force companies that buy past-due consumer debts — and attempt to collect by suing — to present sufficient evidence to back up their claims, said Jonathan F. Harris, an attorney with the Public Justice Center.

A court committee recommended the new rules in June at the urging of the Maryland Attorney General's Office and the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. When debt buyers purchase defaulted accounts from credit-card firms and other creditors, they pay a cut-rate price for what usually amounts to "only minimal information regarding each debt and debtor," the rules committee concluded.

The companies then swear in affidavits that the information is accurate, though they frequently don't pay to acquire documents — such as signed agreements or a list of purchases — to verify the details in the databases they have purchased, the attorney general's office said.

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