Debt Collection Laws: FDCPA and Debtor Rights

Debt collection agencies have the right to contact a debtor about their past due bills, but they do not have the right to harass debtors under the guidelines of the federal Fair Debt Collection Act (FDCPA). That means that anyone who is facing harassment from a collection agency has the right to force them to stop. There are several means to do that, but they must be sure they have grounds to pursue such claims. Many frivolous suits have been filed in recent years, and some have resulted in additional costs to the debtor.

Debtor's Rights

Debtors have the right not to face harassment every day from aggressive collection agencies. The FDCPA spells out a number of specific prohibitions against harassing behavior from collection agencies. However, it is important to note that those regulations apply only to third party collection agencies, not first party creditors. Such collection agencies are only paid on a contingency basis generally, which means that if they do not collect payment from the debtor, they are not paid themselves. It is no wonder that they are aggressive, but that does not allow them to be abusive. The FDCPA gives the debtor certain rights when dealing with collection agencies:

  • The right not to have repeated annoying calls, especially at unreasonable hours such as after 9 p.m. and before 8 a.m.
  • The right to have all collection contacts stop after they make such a request to the agency in writing
  • The right to be free from calls at their workplace if their employer prohibits it
  • The right to not face any calls once they are represented by a lawyer
  • The right to be free from deception or misrepresentation (such as collectors claiming they are lawyers when they are not, or claiming they will file a lawsuit when they have no such plans)
  • The right to be free from obscene or profane language
  • The right to be free from threats or violence
  • The right to protect their friends, family, and associates from harassment or embarrassing questions other than the debtor's location or contact information
  • The right to keep their financial status out of the media
  • The right to be free from false reports to credit bureaus

If a collection agency abuses those rights or continues harassing behavior after they have been asked to stop, the debtor has additional rights:

  • The right to keep a log of harassing calls and file a complaint when there is sufficient evidence of abuse by sending the evidence to the Federal Trade Commission (at 6th and Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20580)
  • The right to file a lawsuit against the collection agency if there are sufficient grounds. They may collect a $1,000 statutory damage claim plus attorney's fees and court costs if they win (plus real damages if any), but they may be required to pay the agency's fees and court costs if they lose

Getting Legal Help with Debt Collection Laws

It may appear that there is not much chance to win a case against a collection agency, but that is far from the truth. In fact, experienced consumer rights attorneys may be able to frame a complaint forcefully enough to stop harassment before taking any more formal steps. However, if those formal steps such as a complaint to the FTC or a lawsuit are required, an attorney can determine if they are justified and how to put together a winning case.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Get Professional Help

Talk to a Debt Settlement Lawyer.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you