At Modestas Law, we help consumers who suffer from abusive debt collection practices that violate the the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, often referred to as the "FDCPA." If a debt collector violates the act, the consumer can sue the debt collector for damages in court.
Understanding the key provisions of the federal law will enable you to protect yourself and your family from unscrupulous debt collectors.
The FDCPA is a federal law designed to eliminate abusive debt collection practices, promote fair debt collection, and provide an avenue for consumers to dispute and obtain verification of debt claims. The Act imposes specific requirements and limitations on debt collector practices.
The FDCPA applies only to debt collectors. It does not apply to the original creditor. A debt collector is a person or business that regularly collects or attempts to collect consumer debts owed to another person or business.
Sometimes debt collectors or debt collector agencies are hired by a company or business to collect delinquent debts owed to the business. The United States Supreme Court determined that the term debt collector does not include companies that buy defaulted loans from another lender. Those companies cannot be sued under the FDCPA.
The Act also only applies to consumer debt. The FDCPA definitions of “consumer” and “debt” restrict coverage of the law to personal, family, or household transactions. Business debts (whether owed by a person or a business) are not covered.
The FDCPA sets out specific requirements that apply to consumer debt collection activities. There are also a number of practices that are prohibited under the FDCPA. The most important restrictions and prohibitions fall into several different categories:
There are specific rules that a debt collector must follow in contacting you about a consumer debt. In the initial contact, the debt collector must advise you that he or she is attempting to collect a debt and tell you that any information you provide will be used for that purpose. In addition, within five days of that first contact, the collector is required to send confirming written correspondence to your home address, identifying the amount due, the collector, and the original creditor. The correspondence must also advise you that you can dispute the debt and have 30 days to demand that the collector validate the debt.
You can stop a debt collector from calling you by writing a letter to the agency telling them to stop contacting you. Once they receive the letter, the agency may not contact you again except to notify you that a specific action will be taken. In addition, within 30 days, you can send a letter stating that you do not owe the debt or want verification. In that case, the collection agency can resume contacting you only after they send you proof of the debt.
In addition, a debt collector is prohibited from contacting you in the following circumstances:
Generally, a debt collector cannot contact other people, referred to as “third parties,” about your debt. There are some exceptions. The collection agency may contact:
If other people are contacted by a debt collector in an attempt to locate you, there are specific requirements and prohibitions:
A debt collector is prohibited from any conduct intended to harass, oppress, or abuse the debtor. Specifically, the collector cannot:
A debt collector cannot lie, mislead you, or misrepresent himself or herself. Specifically, the collector cannot:
A debt collection agency cannot use any unfair or outrageous methods to attempt to collect a debt. Prohibited conduct includes:
The Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are the federal government agencies responsible for administrative enforcement of the FDCPA. In addition, if a debt collector violates any part of the FDCPA in attempting to collect a debt that is covered by the Act, you can file a lawsuit to recover damages in state or federal court. Recoverable monetary damages can include:
Depending on the circumstances, actual damages can include items such as:
In addition, a court can also issue injunctive relief, which orders a debt collector to stop contacting you and your family, friends, work, and others by phone or mail or other means.
If you are dealing with an unscrupulous debt collector, talk with our attorney for abusive debt collector practices about whether you can bring a lawsuit to recover damages. If you are in Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, or Will County, Modestas Law can help you. Contact us to schedule an initial consultation.