The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") prohibits debt collectors from using harassing or deceptive collection practices in collecting consumer debts. The statute's stated purposes are: to eliminate abusive practices in the collection of consumer debts, to promote fair debt collection, and to provide consumers with an avenue for disputing and obtaining validation of debt information in order to ensure the information's accuracy.
The Act prohibits certain types of "abusive and deceptive" conduct when attempting to collect debts, including the following:
- Hours for phone contact: contacting consumers by telephone outside of the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. local time.
- Failure to cease communication upon request: communicating with consumers in any way (other than litigation) after receiving written notice that said consumer wishes no further communication or refuses to pay the alleged debt, with certain exceptions, including advising that collection efforts are being terminated or that the collector intends to file a lawsuit or pursue other remedies where permitted.
- Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously: with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.
- Communicating with consumers at their place of employment after having been advised that this is unacceptable or prohibited by the employer.
- Contacting consumer known to be represented by an attorney.
- Communicating with consumer after request for validation has been made: communicating with the consumer or the pursuing collection efforts by the debt collector after receipt of a consumer's written request for verification of a debt made within the 30 day validation period (or for the name and address of the original creditor on a debt) and before the debt collector mails the consumer the requested verification or original creditor's name and address.
- Misrepresentation or deceit: misrepresenting the debt or using deception to collect the debt, including a debt collector's misrepresentation that he or she is an attorney or law enforcement officer.
- Publishing the consumer's name or address on a "bad debt" list.
- Seeking unjustified amounts, which would include demanding any amounts not permitted under an applicable contract or as provided under applicable law.
- Threatening arrest or legal action that is either not permitted or not actually contemplated.
- Abusive or profane language used in the course of communication related to the debt.
- Communication with third parties: revealing or discussing the nature of debts with third parties (other than the consumer's spouse or attorney) (Collection agencies are allowed to contact neighbors or co-workers but only to obtain location information; disreputable agencies often harass debtors with a "block party" or "office party" where they contact multiple neighbors or co-workers telling them they need to reach the debtor on an urgent matter.)
- Contact by embarrassing media, such as communicating with a consumer regarding a debt by post card, or using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of mail or by telegram, except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business.
- Reporting false information on a consumer's credit report or threatening to do so in the process of collection.
If you are experiencing any of these harassing or deceptive collection practices, call or email Stanek Law Office for a free consultation.