In recent years, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) has been a topic of much debate. The FDCPA was designed to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive and abusive debt collection practices.
However, many people are confused about what this act actually does or how it affects them personally. In this blog post, we will be discussing the five major provisions that make up the FDCPA and how they affect you as a consumer!
What is the fair debt collection practices act?
The FDCPA is a law enacted by Congress in 1977. So what does the act actually do and how does it protect you? The five major provisions are:
- Debt collectors cannot call your place of employment more than once per week to contact about a debt unless they have been given permission by your employer or the local laws allow them to make more than one call per week
- Debt collectors cannot contact you before the allowed hours of a day. There are different time zones in which debt collection agencies operate and there is not an accurate way to know what the exact hour for your specific area might be. The FDCPA does set general rules that states unless they have been given permission by you, debt collectors can only contact you between eight am and nine pm on any given weekday or eleven am through five pm on Saturdays
- If requested, debt collectors must provide proof of their identity when contacting consumers about debts owed. This includes presenting written information from the collector’s employer; displaying “a unique identifier such as a company badge”; providing his/her first name along with last name; and stating the company’s address, phone number or website
- Debt collectors cannot use any language that is abusive in nature to consumers. This includes using threats of violence against you or threatening physical harm to your family members
- A debt collector can contact third parties including friends, neighbors and co-workers for information about how well a consumer pays his/her bills if they have first obtained permission from the consumer.
Documentation required to abide by the FDCPA
The FDCPA does not include a list of requirements for documentation that debt collectors must provide consumers. However, it is important to know that if you request the information from them and they fail to produce any documents or refuse your request altogether, then there are no other legal requirements outside of what has been mentioned in this blog post.
Illegal debt collection practices
There are many debt collection practices that violate the FDCPA and can be reported to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the FTC. These include:
- Failing to identify themselves as debt collectors.
- Calling before or after hours without specifying the time in advance
- Making false threats of violence, arrest and imprisonment for not paying a debt.
- Repeatedly using profane or obscene language toward consumers; threatening physical harm; promising benefits you don’t intend to provide (such as lower interest rates); threatening to publish or broadcast lists of debtors not paying their bills
- Threatening legal action they don’t intend to take, such as falsely claiming that a lawsuit has been filed against the debtor.
- Repeatedly contacting consumers after they have asked for contact information about the debt collector’s company.
How can you protect yourself?
There are steps you can take as an individual consumer to help avoid becoming a victim of debt collection harassment:
If possible, do not answer calls from unknown numbers because these could be attempts by collectors trying to reach out to potential targets who have yet to suspect anything wrong with their accounts
Be aware when someone is contacting third parties about your debts! In most cases, individuals will contact friends, family members and co-workers about a debt owed. This is done with the intention of obtaining more information by getting to know how you as the consumer handle your finances
Consider requesting specific documentation from collectors before agreeing on anything they say or do. Document everything that occurs during interactions with collectors for future reference! Keeping track can help in reporting any violations of the FDCPA.
Is the FDCPA the same as the Fair Debt Reporting Act?
The FDCPA is a federal law that regulates the way in which debt collectors contact and collect from consumers. The law has been on the books since 1977, and was enacted partially as an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
What types of debt does the act cover?
The FDCPA covers all forms of consumer debts, including credit cards, medical bills, cell phone bills, utility bills, payday loans, debt relief services fees and even past due rent. Debt collectors are required to comply with the FDCPA when collecting any form of consumer debt.
How do I report FDCPA violations?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles complaints against uncooperative or abusive debt collectors, in close collaboration with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The FTC may be able to require the collector to stop contacting you, delete any information they have about you, and pay a fine of up to $16000 per violation.
To file your own complaint: visit privacyrights.org for instructions on how to draft a complaint letter that meets all the legal requirements. Include as much detail in your story as possible, including the names of anyone involved and what happened from beginning to end.