Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Medford Attorney Fighting Illegal Debt Collection Tactics
Prior to the passing of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) in March 1978, few laws regulated how third-party debt collectors attempted to get payment for past-due debt. Collectors would harass consumers at all hours of the day and night. They might tell lies about the consequences the person would face for unpaid debt. Some even threatened violence or damage to the consumer’s property.
The FDCPA outlined specifically what debt collectors can and cannot do as well as legal action that consumers can take against those who violate the law. Since its original enactment, several amendments have increased and clarified the protections afforded to consumers. The most recent amendment, effective Nov. 30, 2021, addresses how a debt collector can and cannot use digital communications like text messages, emails, and social media.
If you are being harassed by creditors or experiencing financial difficulties, our experience at Oakes Law Offices, P.C.can help provide some peace of mind. Call (541) 204-2037.
Consumer Protection Against Unfair Debt Collection
The act defines a debt collector as anyone who regularly collects or attempts to collect consumer debts for another person or institution. A debt collector can also be an institution that uses a different name when collecting its own consumer debts.
Not all collections are covered by FDCPA. Those not covered include:
- An institution collecting its own debt under its own name
- Debts an institution originated and then sold but still services (mortgages and student loans, for example)
- Debts that were not in default when they were obtained
- Legal-process servers
The overall purpose of the law is to protect debtors from overly aggressive and manipulative collectors.
The FDCPA breaks down prohibited practices into four categories. Prohibited practices include:
- Harassing or Abusive Practices. Debt collectors cannot use or threaten to use violence or other criminal means to harm the consumer’s reputation, property, or body. They also cannot advertise a debt for sale to coerce payment. Repeated calls and making calls without properly identifying themselves are also prohibited.
- False or Misleading Representations. A collector cannot falsely identify themselves as an attorney or a representative of any U.S. or state agency. They cannot imply that not paying the debt will result in imprisonment or that their wages will be automatically garnished. Providing documents made to look like they are from any court or government agency is illegal. They cannot threaten to take any action that is not legal or intended.
- Unfair Practices. Debt collectors cannot collect any interest or fees that were not authorized in the original debt agreement. They cannot threaten to repossess or disable property when they have no right to do so. Collectors cannot accept a check or other instrument postdated by more than five days, unless he or she notifies the consumer, in writing, of any intention to deposit the check. Consumers cannot be communicated with about a debt via postcard.
Not only does the law outline prohibited activities, but it also restricts when and where communication is permitted.
Provisions outlining how collectors communicate with consumers are as follows:
- Debt collectors cannot call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in the consumer’s time zone.
- Collectors cannot contact consumers at their place of employment if the collector has reason to believe the employer bans such communications.
- The collector should communicate with the consumer’s attorney if they have one.
- Debt collectors must stop communicating with the consumer when they request in writing for communication to end.
- Collectors cannot contact friends, relatives, and others associated with the consumer about the debt. The only third parties that collectors can contact are the consumer’s attorney, a consumer reporting agency, the creditor, the creditor’s attorney, and the debt collector’s attorney.
The FDCPA also outlines requires a debt collector to provide the consumer with specific basic information. If the information was not provided in the initial contact nor was the debt paid within five days of that date, the consumer must receive the following in writing.
- Amount of the debt
- Name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed
- Notice that the consumer has 30 days to dispute the debt
If the consumer disputes the debt, the collector must stop collection efforts until they send a verification of the debt to the consumer. If the current creditor isn’t the original creditor, the consumer has the right to request the name of the originator during the 30-day window. The collector must cease all collection efforts until they provide that information.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the FDPCA.
Our Medford FDCPA Attorney Can Help You Fight Back
You do not have to endure badgering calls, threats, and other illegal debt collection practices. At Oakes Law Office, P.C., we believe that everyone has the right to be treated with respect. We understand how financial struggles can be overwhelming, and we are here to help.
When debt collectors violate the provisions of the FDCPA, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. They may be liable for the following:
- Any economic damages (medical costs, lost wages, etc.) sustained as a result of the violation
- Additional statutory damages of up to $1,000 (more in a class-action lawsuit)
- Attorney fees and costs
You have one year from the date of the violation to begin legal action.
If you think a debt collector has violated the law in their efforts to collect a debt from you, contact us right away. We can help put a stop to the harassment.
Schedule a consultation using our online form or by calling (541) 204-2037.