The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has often commented that it receives more consumer complaints about debt collectors than any other industry. People claim that these collectors call them at all hours, threaten them with everything from wage garnishment to physical assault, and call their friends, family, and co-workers to expose them as “deadbeats.” In some cases, the debts in question do not even belong to the consumers being harassed.
At a time when millions of people across the country are struggling to pay their bills, debt collectors are making their burden worse. Fortunately, a federal consumer protection law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, gives indebted consumers the ability to file a claim against these companies.
The FDCPA was enacted in 1977 after concerns arose that overzealous debt collectors were contributing to a rise in consumer bankruptcies. It regulates the U.S. debt collection industry and imposes financial penalties on companies that use prohibited practices like those below.
- Calling you without disclosing that they are a debt collector seeking to collect a debt. Many collectors leave messages that simply ask you to call someone you’ve never heard of at a number you don’t recognize.
- Using profane or obscene language when they speak to you on the phone or leave a message.
- Using an autodialer to send a succession of calls to your phone, solely for the purpose of annoying and harassing you.
- Calling you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. in your time zone unless you give them permission to do so.
- Calling you at work when workplace policy prohibits such calls.
- Claiming that a legal action has been initiated against you when no such action has been taken. Examples include threats of a lawsuit, wage garnishment, and foreclosure on your home.
- Contacting you directly after you have hired an attorney regarding the debt. Once they have your attorney’s contact information, they may not reach out to you directly anymore.
- Calling third parties such as friends and family members and telling them that you owe money. The FDCPA does not allow a debt collector to discuss your debt with anyone but you, your spouse, or your attorney.
The FDCPA does have some limitations. It only covers personal debt, not business obligations. It also governs the actions of third-party collection agencies, which are companies hired by creditors to collect past due accounts, and not any collection actions being taken against you by the original creditor. Oklahoma has its own laws that provide a degree of protection to consumers being contacted by their creditors.
If a third-party debt collector is treating you in ways that violate the FDCPA, you can sue them.
If you win, allowable damages include up to $1,000 per violation in addition to your reasonable attorney fees and court costs.
At the Law Offices of B. David Sisson, we protect the rights of indebted consumers who are being bullied, deceived, or harassed by debt collectors. We understand how stressful and embarrassing debt issues can be, which is why we offer compassionate representation that includes an aggressive protection of your best interests. To schedule a consultation with Attorney Sisson, please contact us today.