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Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a statue which was added in 1978 to the Consumer Credit Protection Act.  This Act was designed to prohibit debt collectors from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices when collecting debts, to support fair debt collection, and provide consumers with a way to have access to and dispute any discrepancies being reported on their credit report.  The FDCPA provides collection guidlines for debt collectors, the rights of consumers who are involved in debt collection, and the penalties for improper collection practices.

The FDCPA applies to any debt collector but is typically upheld to third party debt collection companies and attorneys (since 2006) who are trying to collect a debt on behalf of an original creditor, and does not apply to the original creditor.  The Act specifically restricts the coverage to an individual, family, or household debt.  It is not cover business debt.

The Act prohibits collectors from deceptive or abusive practices such as:

  • Hours for phone contact:  must be between 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. local time
  • Failure to cease communication upon request: once receiving a written request  to cease communication or consumer refuses to pay a collector may not communicate with consumers in any way (other than litigation).
  • Continually calling any person repeatedly or continuously: with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person.
  • Communicating with consumers at their place of employment: once it has been advised it is prohibited by the employer.
  • Contacting consumer being advised they are being represented by an attorney
  • Communicating with consumer after request for validation: consumer may request validation of debt in writing and collection must cease until information is furnished.
  • Misrepresentation or deceit: misrepresenting the debt or using deception to collect the debt, such as a debt collector's misrepresentating themselves as law enforcement or an attorney.
  • Publishing the consumer's name or address on a "bad debt" list.
  • Seeking unjustified amounts, which are not within the contract of the debt or laws.
  • Threatening arrest or legal action that is not legally permitted.
  • Abusive or profane language used during communication while trying to collect a debt.
  • Communication with third parties: revealing or discussing (or threatening to) the debts with anyone other than the consumer's spouse or attorney.
  • Contact by embarrassing media, such as a visual mailing like a post card.
  • Reporting false information on a consumer's credit report or threatening to do so during the process of collection.

The FDCPA also requires debt collectors to:

  • Identify themselves and notify the consumer, in every communication, that they are representing debt collection.
  • Give the name and address of the original creditor within 30 days of receipt of the consumer's written request.
  • Notify the consumer of their right to dispute the debt, in part or in full, with the debt collector.
  • Provide verification of the debt within 30 days or receipt if a consumer sends a written dispute or request for verification.
  • File a lawsuit in a proper venue - a lawsuit may only be filed where the consumer lived or where they signed the contract.
  • The FDCPA is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission under the Federal Trade Commission Act.  Debt collectors found to have violated these laws may be subject to civil lawsuits.  However, if the court deems the consumer to have filed the law suit in bad faith or to provide harassment the courts may allow compensation to the debt collectors for attorney's fees etc.

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