The Fair Dept Collection Practices Act protects consumers from debt collectors’ terrible behavior. It also gives a way for you to get your hands on the information you need in order to dispute a charge.
The definition of who is and who is not a “debt collector” has changed over time. At first, this law only applied to companies that bought debt at a discount and then tried to collect it. But over time the definition has broadened. Now even attorneys who are involved in debt collection fall under this law, which means you have more protection against more collectors.
Conduct that is not allowed:
The law stops debt collectors from engaging in “abusive and deceptive” behavior when they try to collect debt. That includes:
Contacting you after you’ve requested a validation of the debt.
Calling you when the collector knows you are working with an attorney.
Calling you after 9 pm or before 8 am local time.
Contacting you at work if your employer prohibits it.
Non-stop calling just to be a nuisance.
Reporting or threatening to report false information to credit bureaus.
Publicly embarrassing you, which includes sending you a “debt postcard” or putting an embarrassing stamp on a note or on a letter they send you. It also includes publishing your name on a “bad debt” list.
Talking with people other than your spouse or attorney about the collection.
Using abusive language, threatening to have you arrested or other legal action they can’t legally take.
Trying to collect higher amounts than are owed.
Misrepresenting themselves such as saying they are the police or attorneys when they are not.
The debt collector has to stop contact with you after they receive your written notice demanding that they stop contacting you or that you refuse to pay the bill. The only exceptions are they can contact you to tell you that they are no longer going to pursue the matter and they can contact you to tell you they are going to start litigation against you.
The act further requires that the collector act professionally. Here is what the law requires of them:
They have to identify themselves in every communication and disclose that any information you offer will be used to collect the debt.
If you send a written request for the name and contact information for the original creditor, they must give you that information.
They must give you formal notice that you can dispute the debt.
If they file a lawsuit it has to be filed where you live or where you signed the contract.
If you make a written request within 30 days of getting notice of the collection process, the collector must mail you information that verifies the debt or stop the collection process completely.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and FTC enforces this law but you're free to file a lawsuit. If you win your suit you might receive damages, fees and costs. More importantly, you don’t have to prove your damages. If you win your case, the debt collector will have to pay you up to $1000 plus reasonable attorney fees. Just be warned though, if the court finds that you filed case frivolously and you lose, you may have to pay the debt collectors legal fees.
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