What is the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA)?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA is a set of laws that gives legal protection for debtors against abusive debt collection tactics by creditors. In essence, this amendment was enacted to ensure fair debt collection. But how does this benefit the average person who has debts? There are a number of rules that ensure that creditors behave and that you get piece of mind while you work to pay your debts. Here we’ll outline some of the “abusive or deceptive” behavior and what the repercussions for the collecting entity could be.
Prohibited under Fair Debt Collections Practices Act
Debt Collectors Can’t Call You at Work
This prohibition goes into effect after the creditor has been advised, by you, that you don’t want them to call you at your place of employment.
Creditors must call within reasonable times
Contacting customers outside of 8:00am and 9:00pm your local time is strictly prohibited. Also, if you work at night and sleep during the day, there is also reasonable consideration here.
Creditors Can’t Call Over and Over again
Harassment by a creditor is established when they cause the phone to ring repeatedly with the intent to annoy or abuse you.
Creditors Can’t Contact You if You Have an Attorney
Once the creditor has been made aware that you have legal representation, they must go through your bankruptcy lawyer.
Debt Collectors can’t misrepresent or deceive
Debt collectors can’t misrepresent themselves as an attorney or legal office in any way. Also they must be straight forward about the debt and can’t use deception to collect.
Creditors Can’t Publicly Shame You
If you owe a creditor they can’t publish your name or address in the paper or anywhere else in an attempt to publicly shame you. Furthermore, they are barred from talking with any third parties about the nature of your debts.
Creditors Can’t Threaten You
Abusive or profane language used in communicating your debt is unacceptable and violates the FDCPA. Furthermore, the creditor can’t threaten you with arrest or legal action.
There are several other cases in which the FDCPA can be violated by creditors. If you feel that your creditor is being unfair, harassing you, or using illegal or deceptive tactics to recover any debt, contact your local bankruptcy attorney to find out if you have a case against them.
Penalties and Enforcement of the FDCPA
Initially the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) governed the administration and enforcement of the FDCPA, but in 2011, Obama and Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which is tasked with enforcing its rules, as well as, overseeing pay day lenders, banks, credit unions, foreclosure relief services, debt collectors, and other financial companies in the US. In addition to the CFPB’s regulatory powers, you may be able to also file a private lawsuit against the offenders. If found that the collector knowingly violated the FDCPA they could be liable for:
• Statutory damages up to $1,000
• Reasonable attorney Fees
• Damages for Physical or Emotional Distress
• Lost Wages Recovery
• Wage Garnishment Recovery
How the FDCPA can help you
It’s important to know that if your creditor is found to violate the FDCPA; they must immediately stop calling and sending letters. If any other family member, co-worker, neighbor, or other third party was affected by the party’s actions, they may also have grounds for a lawsuit. Because Debt Collections and the bankruptcy code often intersect (and sometimes conflict), it’s important to call your local bankruptcy attorney if you feel that you are being harassed by creditors. Bankruptcy lawyers have experience suing creditors, and can also help reduce your debt and get the creditors off your back if they aren’t in violation of the law.