The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act can protect you as a consumer

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act can provide the consumer with protection for debt collectors who harass and threaten them. Learn about the Act and its protection for consumers.

Debt collectors can be frustrating to deal with. Consumers often find themselves at a loss when they are receiving harassing and embarrassing phone calls from debt collection agencies. What rights do consumers have when they find themselves in this situation? The main law dealing with this type of issue is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act known as the “FDCPA”. Under the law these rights apply to consumers whether they intend to pay the bill or not, and whether they actually owe the money. The law applies to debt collection agencies and attorneys, not to creditors that are trying to collect their own debts. Consumers should check with their state authorities to determine what laws may apply to creditors collecting their own debts.

According to the National Consumer Law Center, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires collection agencies to take certain actions. In all circumstances the law requires debt collectors to respect your privacy and avoid using deceptive, abusive or harassing collection methods. The main actions required by debt collectors include the following: if a consumer puts in a written request to the debt collector to stop contacting them, the collector must stop contacting you within thirty days of receiving a written letter. The collection agency is required to send you a notice informing you of your right to dispute the debt with their first communication or within five days of their first communication with you. If you raise a dispute over the debt, the agency is to stop collection actions until the company investigates your complaint.

The FDCPA also lays out guidelines for the type of contact the collection agency can use when contacting you for a debt. A collection agency is not to contact your relatives, employers, friends or neighbors about a debt unless a court has given them permission to do so. Contacts to other parties are permitted for the sole purpose of locating you. Upon contacting third parties, collectors are not to reveal the main purpose of the call which is to collect a debt. Debt collectors are allowed to contact other creditors, attorneys, the credit reporting agencies, cosigners and your spouse. Debt collectors are also required to contact you during convenient hours which are typically between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. If you work night shifts, these hours may not be convenient for you. The collection agency should not be contacting you at inconvenient places as well. Places such as your employment if this is prohibited at work, at a friend’s house or at a hospital would be considered an inconvenient place.

When a collector calls you on the phone, they should not be using obscene language or making derogatory remarks. They should not be telephoning you repeatedly in a short period of time. They need to disclose to you who is calling. They should not be making threats of embarrassing you or making judgments about your family. They are not to threaten you with legal action unless they have full intention of taking you to court.

According to Michigan State University Extension, the best action is to be proactive by working with your creditors. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t pay all your bills on time, know that you do have consumer rights and follow up with the debt collectors. 

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