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What Is The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act?

If you are like most Americans, then you probably have some form of debt. When that debt becomes due, you may be contacted by a debt collector. What you may not know is that debt collectors cannot harass you or use deceptive tactics to collect the money that they claim that you owe. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) is a law that limits what debt collectors can do when trying to collect a debt. This law also provides you with important rights and may allow for compensation if those rights have been violated. Here’s more on the FDCPA and what you should do if you have been harassed by a debt collector.

Overview Of The FDCPA

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law that was established to protect you from abusive and harassing debt collectors. The law considers a debt collector to be anyone who is hired by the original creditor to collect a debt. A debt collector can also be someone who bought your debt off of another person or company. An example of a debt collector under the FDCPA is a collection agency that has been hired by a credit card company to collect an unpaid balance.

In order for you to receive protection under the law, the debt that is being collected must be either a personal or household debt. What this means is that if you acquired your debt under a business or corporation, then the protections of the FDCPA may not apply. An example of a personal debt would be unpaid medical bills.

The FDCPA is unique in a few important ways. Because the law can force debt collectors who violate it to cover your lawyer’s fees, you may not have to come out of pocket to file a claim. Additionally, if it can be proven that the law has been broken, you may be entitled to damages. These damages typically come in the form of a cash payout. While some of these damages are set, you may be able to receive additional money if it can be shown that you have been directly harmed by the debt collector’s tactics.

What Does The FDCPA Cover?

Under the FDCPA, there are rules that debt collectors must follow. There are certain times and places where a debt collector is permitted to contact you. Any abusive or harassing behavior is prohibited. A few examples of conduct that may violate the law are:

  • Calling repeatedly – A collector may violate the FDCPA by causing your telephone to ring or engaging you in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass you regarding the debt.
  • Using abusive or foul language – Yelling, screaming, or using profanity may violate the law. Name calling or vulgar language may also be prohibited by the FDCPA.
  • Calling before 8:00am or after 9:00pm – As mentioned earlier, the law does not allow debt collectors to contact you whenever they please. They are limited to phone calls between the hours of 8:00am to 9:00pm. These times are based on your time zone, not those of the debt collector.
  • Telling a third-party about your debt – Debt collectors are not allowed to inform anyone else about your debt unless you have given them express permission to do so. However, there are a select few exceptions of individuals that may be contacted about your debt. They are:
    • Your attorney
    • The original creditor
    • A credit reporting agency
    • Your spouse
  • Threatening or using violence – Debt collectors are prohibited from using or threatening to use violence in order to get you to pay your debt. Threats may violate not only the FDCPA, but also state and federal laws.
  • Demanding that you pay more than what is owed – A collector can only purse the payment of the amount that you owe. Falsely stating that the amount you owe is more than what it actually is may violate the FDCPA. Additionally, you are entitled to request written proof of the amount owed.
  • Contacting your employer – A debt collector cannot contact you at your place of employment when you have made it clear that such calls are not allowed. The FDCPA strictly prohibits a debt collector from informing your boss or co-workers about your debt.
  • Continuing to contact you after you obtain legal representation – If you hire a lawyer to represent you, then a debt collector must stop contacting you about the debt. All correspondence concerning your debt must now be made through your lawyer.
  • Failing to provide verification of your debt – If you make a written request to the collector to verify your debt, then they must provide you with verification. If they fail to do so and then continue to contact you about the debt, that may constitute a violation of the FDCPA.
  • Demanding excessive, illegal interest, fees, or other expenses – As mentioned earlier, a collector can only attempt to collect what you actually owe. State and federal law limits the amount of interest or late fees a creditor can charge. As a result, tacking on illegal fees, interest, or penalties may violate the FDCPA.
  • Failing to disclose that they are a debt collector – Debt collectors must identify themselves as such if they are attempting to collect a debt. Misrepresenting or failing to disclose their identity or the purpose of the communication may violate the FDCPA.

Damages For Violating The FDCPA

Debt collectors who violate the FDCPA may have to pay you damages. These damages are set by law, which means that you will typically only be able to collect up to the $1,000 allowed for in the FDCPA. You do not need to prove that the debt collector’s conduct caused you harm to be awarded damages if it can be shown that they violated the law. If you decide to have a lawyer represent you, then the law allows for their fee to be paid by the debt collector.

However, if you are able to prove that you suffered a direct harm from the debt collector, then you may be entitled to more. Harassment and abuse have been known to result in physical or emotional distress. If the illegal conduct of the debt collector caused you to suffer physical or emotional harm, then you may be entitled to additional damages. The loss of employment or a source of income is another example of direct harm. Debt collectors that harass you at work could cause you to be unproductive or to ultimately lose your job. If so, then you may be entitled to compensatory damages.

New York Consumer Rights Lawyers Can Help

The FDCPA dictates what debt collectors can and can’t do. So, if debt collectors are harassing you or are otherwise breaking the law in an attempt to collect a debt from you, then you should consult with an experienced consumer rights lawyer to determine your options. The Law Office of Simon Goldenberg has extensive experience protecting consumers from ruthless debt collectors. We are on your side. To consult with The Law Office of Simon Goldenberg, call (888) 301-0584 or contact us online.