Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
If you owe money to creditors, you are automatically in a vulnerable situation. You can easily be subject to debt collection scams and other abusive practices if you’re not careful. Luckily, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) exists to protect people who have debt. The FDCPA generally applies to third-party debt collectors whose principal purpose is to collect debt on behalf of another creditor or company. If debt collectors harass debtors or engage in any other unfair practices, they can face major lawsuits in state or federal court.
If you fell victim to abusive practices regarding debt collection, the legal team at Eric Wilson Law will proudly defend your rights and help you recover actual damages. Not only that, we’ll help you get rid of your debt for good. To schedule a free consultation, call 205-349-1280 today.
What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law – approved in 1977 – that protects consumers from abusive third-party debt collectors. Third-party debt collectors contact debtors in order to collect debts for another person or company. The FDCPA sets specific rules about when, how, and how frequently a debt collector can contact a debtor about their debts. If a debt collector violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in any way, the debtor has grounds to sue them in a state or federal court and recover financial compensation.
What Are Third Party Debt Collectors?
In understanding the FDCPA, it’s important to understand what the law means by a third-party debt collector. Third party debt collectors purchase debt from original creditors or they collect debt on behalf of original creditors.
How Often is the FDCPA Violated?
Believe it or not, debt collectors violate the FDCPA every single day. In fact, a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau states that they received nearly 83,000 complaints from American consumers in 2020 alone. This number represents a 10% increase compared to total debt collector complaints in 2019. The most common type of complaint in 2020 was about debt collectors attempting to collect debts that the consumer did not actually owe.
When and How Can Debt Collectors Contact You Under the FDCPA?
Below, we explain the specific rules laid out by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for communications between debt collectors and consumers.
When Debt Collectors Can Contact You
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a third-party debt collector at a debt collection agency cannot contact debtors at inconvenient times or places. More specifically, the federal law states that debt collectors can’t contact consumers before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. local time. If a consumer wishes for a debt collector to call them outside of the times listed above for further communication, then they are legally allowed to do so.
How Debt Collectors Can Contact You
The federal law allows debt collectors to contact debtors through telephone calls, emails, physical letters, and even texts. If you’re actively working with an attorney, the debt collector must communicate with you through them.
Debt collectors are also legally allowed to contact a debtor about their debt at home or at work. But if the debtor tells the debt collector that they don’t want calls at work, then they have to stop calling them at work.
Sending a Written Letter to a Debt Collector
A debtor can also tell the third-party debt collector to stop calling their house phone. In order to do this though, the debtor must send a written letter to the debt collector’s address. Under the FDCPA, the debt collector must honor the consumer’s written request. If you have no idea where to begin in writing a letter like this, no need to fear. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides sample letters for situations like this.
Of course, debt collectors who break the rules do exist, so it’s important to get proof that you sent them this letter. In order to get proof, make sure to send the letter through certified mail and pay for a return receipt.
If the debt collector happens to not have the debtor’s contact or location information, they are legally allowed to contact the consumer’s spouse, neighbors, friends, family members, etc. in order to obtain this information. The FDCPA states that they can only call these people one time each, though. Additionally, they cannot reveal to the debtor’s loved ones that they work at a debt collection agency and that they’re calling to collect past due debts.
Within 5 days of the initial communication, third-party debt collectors must send a written notice to the debtor about their debt. This is called a validation notice, and it must include the following information:
- The number of debts owed,
- The name of the original creditor to whom the debt is owed,
- A statement saying that the debts owed are valid unless the debtor disputes it within 30 days,
- A statement saying that the debt collector will verify the debts owed if the debtor specifically asks for that information,
- And a statement saying that the debtor has the right to request more information about the original creditor.
Before you act on any type of consumer debt, you should always utilize your rights to obtain more information about both the debt and the original creditor. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced debt relief attorney about the best course of action in relieving debts.
What Happens To My Debt When I Tell a Debt Collector To Stop Contacting Me?
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector must stop contacting you at work or at home if you ask them to. But just because they have to stop contacting you doesn’t mean that your debt magically disappears. Your debt will still be there, waiting for you to pay it or dispute it. If you don’t take care of it in a timely manner, your debt collector can sue you in order to garnish your wages or garnish your bank account.
Debt Collection Practices That The FDCPA Prohibits
We’ve already explained a few of the unfair collection activities that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from engaging in, but here is a comprehensive list of all prohibited conduct.
- Debt collectors cannot use profane or obscene language when contacting a debtor. Additionally, they can’t threaten or engage in physical violence with the debtor.
- Debt collectors cannot cause a debtor’s phone to ring off the hook or engage in a telephone conversation repeatedly with the debtor in order to harass them, abuse them, or annoy them.
- If debtors have specifically told debt collectors to stop calling them at home or at work, they cannot continue to harass debtors.
- If a debtor is actively being represented by an attorney, the debt collector cannot contact the debtor directly. Instead, they have to contact the attorney.
- Debt collectors cannot contact debtors after they’ve made a specific request for validation of their debt within the 30-day window.
- Debt collectors cannot engage in deceitful or misleading representation in order to talk to a debtor or to collect debts. For example, a debt collector can’t call a debtor and say that they’re a police officer or an attorney just for the purpose of debt collection.
- Debt collectors cannot include a debtor’s name or location information on a “bad debt” list.
- Debt collectors cannot call a friend or family member of the debtor and explain that they work at a debt collection agency and that they’re trying to collect debts from the debtor in question.
- A debt collector cannot contact the debtor through embarrassing media. For example, they cannot send a post card to the debtor. Additionally, all mail sent to the debtor must not have any strange or unnecessary symbols. The envelopes must only include the debt collector’s address. Lastly, a debt collector can include their business name to properly indicate that they are part of a debt collection business.
- Debt collectors cannot put false information on a debtor’s credit report or threaten to put false information on their credit report. This is also a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
If you fell victim to one or more of these abusive or deceptive practices, you have grounds to take civil action against your debt collector.
What To Do if a Debt Collector Violates Your Rights Under the FDCPA
If you are a victim of your debt collector’s abusive practices, you can take legal action against them. Firstly, call Eric Wilson at Eric Wilson Law so he can determine if the FDCPA has been violated. If a violation has occurred, then he can represent you and potentially recover financial compensation on your behalf and/or ensure your debt is erased.
Damages for Abusive Debt Collection Practices
If you decide to sue for unfair debt collection practices, you could receive financial compensation for the following types of damages:
- Emotional distress
- Physical distress (if the debt collector physically harms you or damages your property)
- Lost wages (if your debt collector’s calls cause trouble at work)
- Wage garnishment recovery (if a debt collector who violated the FDCPA took money out of your paycheck in order to repay the debt)
- Statutory damages of up to $1,000 per violation from the debt collector
- Attorney fees
Call Eric Wilson Law Today If You’re a Victim of Unfair Debt Collection Practices
No one deserves to endure abusive or unfair practices from their debt collectors. Being in debt is stressful enough, and enduring profane or obscene language regarding your debt (for example) makes everything worse. The legal team at Eric Wilson Law will listen to your story and help you determine the best course of action. Most importantly, we can help you get rid of your debt for good. Call us today at 205-349-1280 to schedule a free consultation.