Understanding the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Most people want to pay their bills, but sometimes circumstances arise that make it impossible to make even minimum payments and meet due dates. When events happen that keep you from paying your bills, promptly contact your creditors. In many cases, if you contact creditors directly, they may be willing to reschedule payments or make other considerations to help you repay the debt.

If a debt goes unpaid for an extended period of time, creditors may turn your account over to a collection department or agency. While most collection professionals do not utilize threatening and intimidating collection techniques, it is important that you know your rights as a consumer when dealing with collectors.

Collectors are permitted to do the following:

  • Contact your friends, coworkers, or neighbors to inquire about your whereabouts
  • Demand payment
  • Take legal action if necessary

Debt Collectors are not permitted to:

  • Phone your home repeatedly
  • Call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. without permission
  • Use obscene language or threats of violence
  • Threaten you with false statements

If collection calls are causing you a lot of undue stress, the FDCPA states:

“If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except—(1) to advise the consumer that the debt collector’s further efforts are being terminated; (2) to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or (3) where applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy. If such notice from the consumer is made by mail, notification shall be complete upon receipt.”

Notifying your debt collector by mail to stop collection calls

In your letter, let the collector know that you are aware of the FDCPA and this provision of the law. Be sure to send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have proof it was received. Keep a copy of the letter for your files. Please be aware that stopping the calls does not relieve you of your responsibility. You will still owe the money and the company may pursue additional collection efforts such as initiating a lawsuit.

If you feel that a creditor has engaged in unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices, you can choose to sue a collector for the violation of the FDCPA. You have up to one year after the alleged violation to sue. If you win, you may be entitled to damages. You may also be able to recover court costs and attorney’s fees. A group of people may sue a debt collector and recover money for damages.

At the very least, you should file a complaint with the FTC by visiting FTC.gov or call 1.877.FTC.HELP. Although the FTC does not act to resolve individual problems, it does look for patterns of possible law violations.