Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: An Explanation
If you’ve ever gotten behind on your bills, you know that debt collectors are relentless in their efforts to get the money you owe. Sometimes, their behavior borders on harassment. If you’re getting calls from a creditor or collection agency, it’s important to know that you have certain rights.
These rights are outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which makes up a portion of the Consumer Protection Act. The FDCPA prohibits certain practices in the collection of debts and provides a means of disputing and validating the information that debt collectors have. It also requires debt collectors to notify consumers of certain rights and other information.
What Debt Collectors Cannot Do
A key aspect of the FDCPA is limitations on communication with debtors. A collector is not allowed to call a debtor before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. in the debtor’s time zone. It is also prohibited to call a debtor at work if the debtor has stated that accepting such calls is prohibited or discouraged by his employer. In addition, the collector may not threaten arrest or legal action that is not permitted or that he does not plan to follow through on. Likewise, he may not use abusive language or profanity or claim to be an attorney, a law enforcement officer or anything else other than a debt collector.
Debt collectors are prohibited from discussing a consumer’s debt with any third party except for the consumers spouse or lawyer, and from publishing the debtor’s name on a “bad debt” list. If the debtor is represented by an attorney and the collector has been notified of this, he cannot contact the debtor directly. Further, a debt collector may not report or threaten to report false information to the credit bureaus.
What Debt Collectors Are Required to Do
First and foremost, a debt collector must identify himself as a debt collector during every call and in every letter or other communication. He must also state that any information obtained will be used to collect the debt. And he must notify the consumer that he has a right to dispute the debt within five days of the first communication regarding each debt.
If the consumer requests it within 30 days of notification, the creditor must supply the name and address of the original creditor if the debt has been sold or transferred. Verification of the debt must also be provided if the consumer requests it within the same time frame. From the time of the request until verification is sent, the creditor may not contact the debtor.
If you feel that your rights under the FDCPA have been violated, you can report the collector to the Federal Trade Commission. You may also file suit to collect damages in such an event. Complaints may result in fines, and the creditor may be ordered to pay damages and attorney fees.