Florida Rural Legal Services
In 1978, Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) to protect
consumers from harassment by debt collectors. The FDCPA regulates the acts that debt
collectors engage in while attempting to collect unpaid debt from consumers, promotes
fair debt collection, and allows violators of the FDCPA to be sued..
When communicating with persons other than the consumers themselves in order to
acquire information about the location of the consumers, the FDCPA requires
debt-collecting agencies to do numerous things. First, the debt collectors may only call
each third-party person one time, unless that person requests that the debt collector call
again. During that communication, the debt collectors must identify themselves and the
purpose of their call, but they may not state that such consumer owes any debt. If asked
who the employer or original creditor is, the debt collector must also provide the third-party with the name of the employer or original creditor and their addresses. Furthermore, if the debt collector is told, or otherwise knows, that an attorney is representing the consumer with respect to the debt at issue, that debt collector may not speak with anyone, except with that attorney.
The FDCPA also regulates communications between debt-collecting agencies and consumers themselves in order to make sure that consumers are not being abused or harassed. Debt collectors may not contact consumers at any unusual or inconvenient time or place. Generally, this means that debt collectors may only contact consumers between 8 am and 9 pm at the consumer’s local time, and they may not contact consumers at the consumers’ workplace. Furthermore, once a consumer notifies the debt collector that it refuses to pay the debt or that it no longer wants to communicate with the debt collector, the debt collector must cease communication with that consumer. In such circumstances, the debt collector may only communicate with the consumer in order to notify the consumer that the debt collector (1) will terminate its debt-collecting efforts, (2) may invoke specified remedies, or (3) intends to invoke specified remedies.
In promoting fair debt collection, the FDCPA also prohibits all abusive, deceptive, and oppressive conduct, as well as misrepresentation and unfair practices. These include, but are not limited to, using profane language; using violence or threat of violence; publishing a list of consumers who refuse to pay debt; advertising the sale of debt; continuously calling someone with intent to annoy, abuse, harass, deceive, or abuse that person; lying about the status or amount of debt; lying about the identity of a debt collector or its employer; or threatening legal action that the debt collector may not invoke or does not actually intend to invoke.
If a debt collector fails to comply with any provision of the FDCPA, consumers and third-parties related to the collection of the debt may sue the debt collector for all actual damages as well as up to $1,000 in additional damages.
If you have a debt collector contacting you or suing you, FRLS can review your case for defenses and advise you accordingly. In certain circumstances, generally either involving medical debt or garnishment of wages or bank accounts, FRLS will consider court representation if viable defenses exist. To find out if FRLS can help you protect your money, contact us today.