Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
In 1978, Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) to protect consumers from harassment over unpaid debt. The FDCPA sets limitations on behaviors debt collectors may and may not engage in while attempting to collect debt from consumers.
The FDCPA covers personal, family, and household debts, including personal credit card accounts, auto loans, medical bills, and mortgages. The FDCPA does not cover debts incurred to run a business.
Under the FDCPA, a debt collector generally refers to a third party regularly engaged in the business of collecting or attempting to collect debts owed to another person. 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 prohibits debt collectors from engaging in any conduct that would harass, oppress, or abuse any person. Such conduct includes:
- The use of threat of violence or criminal behavior to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person;
- The use of obscene or offensive language in communications;
- Publishing an individual’s name in a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, unless that publication is made to a consumer reporting agency;
- Repeated contact with the debtor or third parties by phone with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass the individual.
The FDCPA further prohibits a debt collector from using any false, deceptive, or misleading representations in connection with the collection of any debt. This behavior includes:
- Claiming to be or implying they are a government official;
- Falsely representing the character, status, or amount of the debt;
- Claiming to be an attorney;
- Implying or stating that the failure to pay the debt will result in the debtor’s arrest and/or confiscation of their property;
- Threatening impermissible legal action;
- Threatening legal action that is not intended;
- Threatening that the transfer of any interest in a debt shall cause the consumer to lose any claim or defense to payment of the debt;
- Communicating false information about the debtor’s credit;
- Using deceptive means to collect or attempting to collect the debt;
- Using any business name other than the true name of the debt collector’s business.
- Implying you are employed by a consumer reporting agency; or
- Implying that collection documents are not of a legal nature.
- Collecting any interest, fees, charges, or expenses incidental to the initial debt unless authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law;
- Accepting a check postdated by more than 5 days unless the debtor is notified, in writing, the collector will deposit the check within 3-10 days;
- Threatening to deposit postdated checks;
- Depositing a postdated check;
- Taking or threatening to take any non-judicial action to effect dispossession of property if there is no present right or intent to take possession of the property; or
- Causing unnecessary charges for communications by concealment of the true purpose of the communication, including collect telephone call and telegram fees.
Additionally, a debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means to:
- Collect any interest, fees, charges, or expenses incidental to the initial debt unless authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law;
- Accept a check postdated by more than 5 days unless the debtor is notified, in writing, the collector will deposit the check within 3-10 days;
- Threaten to deposit postdated checks;
- Deposit a postdated check;
- Take or threaten to take any nonjudicial action to effect dispossession of property if there is no present right or intent to take possession of the property; or
- Cause unnecessary charges for communications by concealment of the true purpose of the communication, including collect telephone call fees.
The FDCPA provides consumers who have been illegally harassed by debt collectors the right to sue for monetary and injunctive relief.
Florida’s counterpart to the FDCPA, the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (CCPA), operates very similarly to the Federal FDCPA. Like the FDCPA, the Florida CCPA covers debt collectors. However, unlike the FDCPA, it also covers original creditors.
Under the CCPA debt collectors may not:
- Pretend to be a police officer or representative of a government agency
- Use or threaten to use force or violence
- Communicate, or threaten to communicate, with the debtor’s employer about the debt;
- Disclose to a person other than the debtor or his family, information affecting the debtor’s reputation, with knowledge that the other person does not have a legitimate business need for the information or that the information is false
- Report, or threaten to report, derogatory information about a disputed debt to a credit reporting agency without also disclosing the existence of the dispute
- Contact third parties about the debt
- Harass the debtor or the debtor’s family about the debt
- Hold themselves out as attorneys, or misrepresent that an attorney is involved
- Send the debtor communications designed to look like attorney letters or government documents
- Communicate with the debtor using obscene, profane, vulgar, or abusive language
- Threaten or attempt to enforce an illegitimate debt, such as a debt that has expired under the statute of limitations
- Knowingly hire an unlicensed collections agency to collect a debt
- Mail the debtor documents that contain embarrassing words or phrases on a postcard or envelope
- Contact the debtor between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. without permission
- Communicate directly with the debtor when they know the debtor is being represented by an attorney
If a debt collector has attempted to collect on your debt by using methods that are unfair, abusive, harrassive, or deceptive, contact us online or give us a call at 954-384-6114 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.