FDCPA Violations – Debt Collector Harassment
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a consumer protection statute under federal law that outlines legal rules and guidelines that protect consumers from debt collection harassment. These rules must be strictly followed by debt collectors. The statute lays out the rules under which debt collectors must obey when contacting consumers in attempting to collect debts, and also outlines the penalties available to consumers for debt collection abuse that violates this law.
The FDCPA does not apply to the original creditor; only third party debt collectors are bound by this law. Debt collectors also include debt buyers and collection agencies. California has their own fair debt collection law called the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (RFDCPA) which covers both the original creditor and third party debt collectors, but limits the coverage of the act to debts incurred as a result of personal, family or household transactions. Both the FDCPA and the RFDCPA exclude debts that are considered business debts.
Are Debt Collectors harassing you?
According to the FDCPA and RFDCPA – the following are examples considered to be “abusive and deceptive” , and debt collectors are prohibited from engaging in any of the following acts in their attempts to collect a debt:
- Phone calls to the consumer before 8:00am or after 9:00pm, using the consumer’s local time.
- Calling multiple times per day or being annoying, abusive or harassing a person during their attempts to collect.
- Continuing to communicate with a consumer after receiving a written notice instructing the debt collector to cease all communication. The cease and desist notice can also be used to dispute the validity of the debt.
- Contacting a consumer at their workplace, after receiving a request from the consumer or employer that such action should cease.
- Contacting an individual after actual knowledge the consumer is now represented by a debt relief attorney.
- Contacting an individual after the consumer has disputed the debt and requesting that the debt be verified.
- Verbal or written threats to a consumer regarding jail time for not paying a debt.
- Abusive language or profanity when demanding payment from a consumer.
- Communicating with neighbors or others not involved with the debt, or making threats to contact these individuals.
- Reporting inaccurate or incorrect information to credit reporting agencies or threats consistent with such action.
The following set of guidelines from the FDCPA and/or RFDCPA must be adhered to by debt collectors when attempting to collect a debt:
- Collectors must identify themselves as a “debt collector” and state the purpose of the call, along with stating that any information gathered during the communication will be used for that purpose.
- Upon receiving a request by the consumer in writing within 30-days of initial contact, the debt collector must provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor.
- Debt collectors are required to advise consumers that they have the option of disputing the debt.
- Verify the legitimacy of the debt in writing once requested to do so by a consumer, and cease any collection attempts with the consumer until the proper verification has been provided.
- Debt collectors must file any lawsuit in the venue where the consumer currently resides, or alternatively where the debt was incurred by way of a signed contract.
Consumers who feel that they have been experiencing debt collector harassment from a third party debt collector have a right to file a lawsuit for compensation and damages from the illegal conduct. The FDCPA and RFDCPA are known as strict liability statutes; this means that a consumer does not have the burden of proof to establish any damages in fact existed. They are presumed to exist by their conduct.
Lawsuits under the FDCPA and RFDCPA can be very complicated and complex. Consumers contemplating legal action against debt collector harassment would be wise to consult with legal counsel that has experience with these issues for representation that can maximize their chances of desirable results.
Contact The Larkin Law Firm for a free consultation with an experienced FDCPA attorney and RFDCPA lawyer.