Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act essentially prevents debt collectors from harassing any individuals. While people are no longer shackled and imprisoned for debt, some collectors have continued to use notoriously thuggish tactics to obtain payments, like bogus threats and intimidating language. To combat this type of institutionalized bullying, this act protects consumers by setting limits to collectors’ conduct. Whether you are in debt or making debt collection calls, here is a layman’s guide to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Explained
The Act covers most debts you may have from your personal life, including any debts related to your home and family. For example, if you have consumer debt from credit cards, you are protected under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The act will also protect you for debts related to medical expenses, car loans, or your mortgage. However, small business owners should take note that the act does not cover debts incurred when opening or running a business. (Nonetheless, collecting debt from businesses should still be as respectful as possible, although collectors may have to turn up the heat.)
What are unfair practices?
Unfair practices are basically ways that debt collectors try to browbeat consumers into paying back debt. A debt collector will usually try to reach you over the phone, and the act stops them from calling you around the clock. Collection calls are typically limited to the hours between 8A.M and 9P.M. Debt collectors are prohibited from calling you at work if you tell them that you cannot receive calls on the job. Collectors may call other people you know, but only to find out your contact information. They can only speak with you or, if you have one, your attorney about your debt.
Debt collectors cannot threaten a consumer with violence, harm or public exposure. Debt is completely private, so collectors cannot publish the names of debtors, nor can they tell anyone else about the debt (except for credit companies). Under the fair collection act, debt collectors are not allowed to lie. A debt collector who tells consumers that they are committing a crime is violating the act. Other unfair practices include depositing a post-dated check, threatening to seize property illegally, or suddenly trying to collect random interest fees. For more details on prohibited debt collection practices, check out the act on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
How can I report an abusive debt collector?
You can sue a collector whom you believe has been abusive and violated the law. Suing allows you to claim back any damages caused by unfair collection practices, such as lost wages or medical bills. (Note that even if you win your suit, your debt will not go away.) To help prove your case, you should hold onto any relevant documents, and keep a log of the possible violations. Even if you do not necessarily win the case, a judge may compel the debt collector to pay you $1000 and/or your legal fees. Since debt collection is regulated by both state and federal law, you should contact your state Attorney General’s office and the Federal Trade Commission.