The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a law originally passed in 1978 in order to protect consumers and regulate the tactics that can be used to by debt collectors. If you have had collection agencies hounding you over a debt, it is imperative that you know what you rights are as outlined in the FDCPA.
The FDCPA is what you will be using to protect you against collection agencies and their shady, illegal debt collection tactics and allow you to fight back against them. It is your best weapon to get collection agencies out of your life and collection accounts off of your credit report. It is also what allows you to sue them in small claims court for violating your consumer rights.
What rights are guaranteed to consumers under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?
One of the main tools given to consumers in the FDCPA is the right to debt validation. Any time you are contacted about a debt you aren’t certain you owe, you may send a debt validation letter to the collection agency. This letter puts the burden of proof on you creditors in order for them to show you the details about any debt you may owe.
The FDCPA also gives you rights concerning when and how frequently a debt collection agency may contact you and what they are permitted to say when they’re talking to you.
What is prohibited by the FDCPA?
The FDCPA outlines what debt collection agencies can and cannot do. A collection agency cannot do any of the following while trying to collect a debt:
- Attempt to collect more than the debt you owe. Some collection agencies try to tack on additional fees that are not detailed in your original lending agreement, which is illegal.
- Call repeatedly at all times of day. According to the law, creditors cannot call you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., or at other times when they know it would be inconvenient for you.
- Use abusive or intimidating language. Making insults, or threats of physical violence over the phone are in violation of the FDCPA.
- Inform outside individuals of the debt you owe. Collection agencies can only share details of your debts with legal advisors, and close family members such as a spouse or parent (if you are under 18). In addition, they may only contact outside sources to try and locate you, but they may only contact the outside source one time.
- Ignore your debt validation request. Creditors may not continue to try and collect on a debt after a debt validation letter is received by them. They must respond to the letter before continuing collection attempts.
What are the primary complaints against collection agencies?
In spite of the protections guaranteed by the FDCPA, collection agencies violate the law regularly. According to the FTC’s annual report on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, there were more than 100,000 complaints filed against debt collection agencies. The following were the primary complaints against debt collection agencies:
- Harassing the alleged debtor or others.
- Demanding a larger payment than is permitted by law.
- Threatening dire consequences if the consumer fails to pay.
- Impermissible calls to consumer’s place of employment.
- Revealing alleged debt to third parties.
- Failing to send required consumer notice.
- Failing to verify disputed debts.
- Continuing to contact consumer after receiving “cease communication” notice.
If a collection agency has attempted any of the behaviors listed above with you, they have broken the law and should pay the price. You can inform the FTC of any violations by submitting a complaint. You may also consider contacting your state attorney general’s office.
Suing a Collection Agency, Creditor or Credit Bureau in Small Claims Court
As previously mentioned, the FDCPA allows you to take them to court and win money. As an informed consumer who knows your rights, it’s important to keep them honest by taking legal action against them when your rights have been violated. Each violation is a $1,000 fine that is rewarded to you.
In addition, suing them can help bring about change and make other people’s lives easier. The more people that sue them, the more likely they are to stop breaking the law. If everyone took action when their rights were violated, these companies would lose a fortune in legal disputes.
Here are some reasons for suing a creditor that you should be aware of:
- They reporting inaccurate information on your credit report.
- They fail to report a debt as disputed after you have disputed it.
- They pull your credit report without permissible purpose.
Reasons for suing a credit bureau:
- They refuse to correct information after being provided proof.
- They re-report an item that’s been removed from your credit report without notifying you in writing within 5 business days.
- They fail to respond to your written dispute within 30 days (a 15 day extension may be granted if they receive information from the creditor within the first 30 days).
Reasons for suing a collection agency:
- They try to be both the purchaser of an account or the assignee. It’s one or the other.
- They misrepresent themselves or the debt they are trying to collect on.
- They try to re-age your account by updating the date of last activity on your credit report to try to keep negative information on your account longer.
- They fail to report a disputed debt to the credit bureaus.
- They do not validate a debt yet continue collection activity by filing for a judgment. They are also not allow to call or write you while the debt is in the validation process.
- They still call you even after you’ve sent them a cease and desist letter.
- They continue to report a debt to the credit bureaus that they have not validated.
- They call you before 8 am or after 9pm or if they call you at work.
- They call your friends, neighbors, relatives of any third party about your debt besides an attorney, credit reporting agency, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.
- They harass you or use abusive language.
- They threaten to garnish your wages.