The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was designed to eliminate abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the FDCPA.
Under the FDCPA, a “debt collector” is someone who regularly collects debts owed to others. This includes collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts on a regular basis, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them. The FDCPA applies to consumer debts (personal, family, and household debts) but does not apply to business debts (debts incurred to run a business).
The FDCPA requires a debt collector to identify themselves and notify you in every communication that they are a debt collector, give the name and address of the original creditor upon your written request, notify you of your right to dispute the debt in part or in full with the debt collector, and provide you with notice of your right to dispute the debt. They must also provide verification if you send a written dispute or request for verification within 30 days after receiving the debt collector’s 1692g notice. The debt collector must either then mail the consumer the requested information (e.g. the name and address of the original creditor, the contract you signed with the original creditor, the amount of debt owed, accounting statements), or cease collection activity all together. The debt collector may not contact you again until they have provided verification of debt.
Under the FDCPA, the following conduct is prohibited by the collector:
- Contacting debtor by telephone outside the hours of 8 am to 9 pm local time.
- Causing a telephone to ring continuously or engaging the debtor in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously;
- Communicating with debtor at their place of business after notification that it is unacceptable;
- Attempting to collect the debt by misrepresentation or deceit, including the debt collector pretending to be an attorney, a government agent, or a law enforcement official;
- Threatening arrest or legal action that is not permitted or actually contemplated, falsely claiming that you have committed a crime, and/or that you will be arrested or have a warrant out for your arrest (in general, you cannot be criminally arrested for debt owed).
- Using abusive or profane language;
- Communicating or discussing the nature of the debts with third parties (including co-workers or neighbors)
Requesting a Cease and Desist
Under FDCPA, a debt collector is required to cease communication with you in any way, upon your written request that you wish to receive no further communication regarding the debt, or that you refuse to pay the debt. Upon receiving a cease and desist notification from you, a debt collector may still report a valid debt to your credit report and may sue you in civil court to enforce the debt.
To file a complaint about a debt collector, contact the Federal Trade Commission by visiting their website.