FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-04-17
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does exactly what it sounds like it should do: the federal law helps ensure the rights of consumers are not violated by debt collectors. Year in and year out, the Federal Trade Commission receives many complaints about collection companies from consumers, with no signs of slowing. The number of lawsuits filed for violations of the FDCPA are up in March.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects consumers from abusive collection practices by third-party collectors and allows consumers to challenge debt claims and obtain information regarding the validity of debt claims. Third-party collectors are companies that purchase debt from creditors that originally loaned funds to consumers. Despite the protection the federal law provides, some third-party debt collection companies continue to use abusive tactics. According to statistics company WebRecon LLC, the number of FDCPA cases filed in the first half of March were up almost 20 percent in comparison to February.
The FDCPA prohibits harassment, abuse, misleading statements and unfair practices by third-party collectors. What qualifies as creditor harassment? Collectors cannot swear at consumers, repeatedly call consumers with the purpose to annoy, call without providing their identity or publicize the name of a consumer who refuses to pay debts.
Collectors are also prohibited from giving misleading statements. Collectors cannot use false or misleading statements in the attempt to collect debt. Collectors must accurately state the amount owed and they cannot pose as a government authority, make threats of arrest or garnishment because of non-payment, or provide false information to the credit bureaus.
Finally, collectors cannot use unfair practices in the collection of debt. Collectors cannot collect more than the amount owed, trick consumers into paying for collect calls, make illegal threats against property owned by the consumer, deposit a post-dated check before the date written on the check, or apply payment to a different debt than indicated.
Be aware that collectors can contact you by mail and by telephone during the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Collectors may also contact other people to get your home address and phone number or work location, but they cannot state that you owe a debt. You can stop collectors from contacting you by writing a letter that asks them to stop. After receipt of the letters, collectors may only contact you to inform you of legal action they intend to pursue. Do not overlook court papers concerning owed debt.
If a debt collector is harassing you, contact an experienced consumer law attorney for assistance.