- For Attorneys
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits harassment or abuse in collecting a debt such as threatening violence, use of obscene or profane language, publishing lists of debtors who refuse to pay debts, or even harassing a debtor by repeatedly calling the debtor on the phone. Also, certain false or misleading representa¬tions are forbidden, such as representing that the debt collector is associated with the state or federal government, stating that the debtor will go to jail if he does not pay the debt. This Act also sets out strict rules regarding communicating with the debtor.The FDCPA applies only to those who regularly engage in the business of collecting debts for others -- primarily to collection agencies. The Act does not apply when a creditor attempts to collect debts owed to it by directly contacting the debtors. It applies only to the collection of consumer debts and does not apply to the collection of commercial debts. Consumer debts are debts for personal, home, or family purposes. When a collector contacts a debtor, if the debtor asks for verification of the debt, the collector must provide this verification in writing. The debtor must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and the debtor’s right to dispute the debt. The collector is restricted in the type of contact he can make with the debtor. He can’t contact the debtor before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. He can contact the debtor at home, but cannot contact the debtor at the debtor’s club or church or at a school meeting of some sort. The debtor cannot be contacted at work if his employer objects. If the debtor tells the creditor the name of his attorney, any future contacts must be made with the attorney and not with the debtor. The debtor can call off the collection contacts at any time. The collector would then have to use other collection means like filing suit. The Act prohibits contacting other people about the debtors debts, with the exception of the debtor’s spouse and parents. Another exception is that third parties can be contacted in order to get the debtor’s address, phone number and place of employment. Contact with the debtor by postcard is prohibited because someone other than the debtor may see the contents of the postcard. When a collection agency violates the Act, it is liable to the debtor for damages, and it is no defense that the debtor in fact owed the money that the agency was seeking to collect. Debtors can collect up to $1,000 in actual damages in addition to actual damages. Also the Federal Trade Commission can get a cease and desist order to stop any unlawful practices.