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Fair Debt Collection Practices

It is true that if you owe a debt, the company or person to whom you owe the money has the right to try and recover it, plus the interest and fees that were agreed upon when you borrowed the sum. After all, it is money that you said you would pay back. However, debt collectors do not have the right to harass you, or to use unfair or deceptive practices when trying to get their money. You do have protections offered by law under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is designed to shield you from debt collectors that use methods of intimidation and harassment to try and recover money from you. While they can contact you with regard to the money you owe, they cannot repeatedly badger you about it. Some of the types of loans covered by the FDCPA include:

  • Medical bills.
  • Charge accounts (i.e. credit cards).
  • Car loans.
  • Other household debts.
  • Personal debts.

Here are some of the things that debt collectors cannot do and remain within the bounds of the law:

  • Call at unreasonable times of the day. Debt collectors can only call between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. They cannot call late at night are very early in the morning.
  • Call you at work. If you have made it clear that your employer does not like you to receive personal calls at work, debt collectors cannot call you at your workplace.
  • Harass you. Debt collectors are not allowed to use demeaning language on the phone, or badger you. They are also not allowed to use profanity or obscene language, or threaten you.
  • Publish your name as someone who has not paid a debt. While debt collectors can send information to the credit bureaus about your debt and whether or not you are paying it, they cannot publish a list of those who are delinquent.
  • Lie or imply that you have committed a crime. While civil action (such as suing you for recovery of the debt) is something that debt collectors can do, having unpaid debt is not a crime. Debt collectors cannot imply that you will be arrested if you do not pay your debt within a specific amount of time. They also cannot lie to you about how much you owe.
  • Disguise who they are. Debt collectors must clearly identify themselves, and the reason for the call, when they contact you.
  • Keep calling you after you request them to stop. If you send a written request to debt collectors, asking them to stop calling you, they must. They can contact you with regard to lawsuit proceedings, but they cannot contact you to ask for payment of the debt.

Additionally, it is important to note that you can request proof that you owe the debt. Many debt collectors buy your debt from your original creditor or lender. You can ask for proof that the debt has been bought, or proof that the debt collector is acting on behalf of you creditor. Debt collectors must also clearly state the amount of money they are collecting, and provide you a break down of principal, fees and interest charges upon request.

What to do if you are being harassed

If you feel that you are being harassed by debt collectors, you should document instances of the harassment. Keep a pad and pen near the phone, and write down the time and date of each call. Write down who contacted you (debt collectors are required to give a first name or an identification number). Note the illegal behavior that was used. If you write a letter asking the debt collector to stop contacting you, make sure that you keep a signed and dated copy of the letter for your own records. You can contact the Federal Trade Commission about violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

If a debt collector really is engaging in practices that go against the FDCPA, you have legal recourse. It is possible for you to sue the debt collector if the company does not follow the law as it is laid out in the FDCPA.

Even though you are in debt, it does not mean that others have the right to harass, intimidate and lie to you. You still have rights. Make sure that you know your consumer rights when it comes to credit, debt and collections.

Related Article: Consumer Protection Laws >>

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