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Frequently Asked Questions on FDCPA Violations

1. What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a US federal law regulating and governing the policies, practices, and actions of third-party debt collectors collecting debts from consumers on behalf of creditors. The core purpose of this act is to ensure fair and ethical debt collection practices and protect consumer rights. Therefore, it provides guidelines and restrictions to prevent abuse, harassment, or deception by outlining the best communication and information collection/disclosure practices. The FDCPA also serves as a guide for victims of unfair treatment seeking legal action against debt collectors and creditors.

2. Who is considered a consumer under the FDCPA?

As per section 1692(a)(3) of the FDCPA violations checklist, a consumer is anyone legally obligated to pay a debt to creditors through third-party collectors. Simply put, consumers are people who owe money to another person (friend, family, employer, etc.), financial institutions (banks, credit unions, etc.), or other creditors. The FDCPA protects their rights and ensures a fair, safe, and ethical debt collection process.

3. How is debt defined under the FDCPA?

Under section 1692(a)(5) of the FDCPA violations checklist, debt is defined as any proven or alleged obligation of a consumer to repay the money they owe to creditors. Common examples of debt include mortgage loan installments, insurance premiums, credit card payments, medical bills, various service fees, etc.

4. What entities are categorized as debt collectors under the FDCPA?

The entities categorized as debt collectors under the FDCPA typically include debt collection agencies or individuals hired by creditors to recover debt from consumers. They include lawyers, collection agents, loan servicers, freelancers, and forms writers. Similarly, creditors include retail companies, hospitals or healthcare providers, banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, student loan services, and utility companies, to name a few. The FDCPA does not cover original creditors who collect debt under its own name.

5. What actions constitute contact with third parties under the FDCPA?

In many cases, debt collectors can’t reach consumers directly. Therefore, they can attempt to communicate with the debtor’s friends, employers, family members, etc. in order to locate a consumer. The FDCPA strictly monitors these communications and imposes certain restrictions to protect these third parties and consumers from harassment, deceit, and other unethical practices. For instance, debt collectors are legally obligated to identify themselves to individuals and can only confirm the debtor’s location and contact information without revealing their debt, except if the person is their attorney or spouse. Moreover, they can only approach a third party once unless they believe the information received was wrong or incomplete and the third party has since received better information.

6. Can debt collectors contact a person more than once a day?

No, the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from contacting a consumer more than once within 24 hours. This communication restriction protects consumers from stress, undue pressure, and frustration due to repeated contact. Many debtors may consider frequent attempts as harassment. Hence, the FDCPA allows certain debt collectors to engage with debtors multiple times as long as they ask for permission and provide legitimate reasons for the frequent engagement.

7. Are postcards allowed for debt collection communications?

No, the FDCPA prohibits the use of postcards for debt collection communications. Postcards are only acceptable for general communications that contain any information related to their debt or the collection. This restriction protects consumers’ privacy and prevents intentional or unintentional disclosure of their financial matters to anyone who handles or sees the postcard.

8. Can debt collectors contact a consumer after knowing an attorney represents them?

Debt collectors are prohibited from contacting consumers directly once they know an attorney is representing them. They must get the attorney’s consent and proactively share the engagement details with them so consumers can obtain legal advice before the communications occur. However, debt collectors can reach consumers who don’t respond to earlier communications. This restriction stops debt collectors from harassing or intimidating consumers, especially those who have opted for legal representation to handle their debt-related issues.

9. What time restrictions apply for debt collection communications under the FDCPA?

The FDCPA allows debt collectors to communicate with consumers or third parties between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time at the consumer’s location. Any communications outside this period are prohibited as they may be inconvenient to the consumer. They can also disrupt their routines or invade privacy since they’re outside business hours in most jurisdictions. So, the FDCPA ensures communications are professional, considerate, and respectful.

10. Are collectors allowed to communicate with consumers at their place of employment?

The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from approaching or communicating with consumers at their workplace unless the consumer’s employer allows it. This restriction protects proven or alleged debtors from unnecessary disruptions while working and embarrassment in front of their colleagues. It ensures debt collectors respect consumer privacy and avoid any practices that could affect their reputation, professional relationships, or employment status.

11. What examples of prohibited conduct may lead to harassment or abuse under the FDCPA?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act outlines various examples demonstrating how debt collectors violate regulations and harass or abuse consumers through prohibited conduct. For instance, unethical debt collectors use or threaten to use violence to force consumers to repay their debt. They also use profane or abusive language during interactions on the phone or in person. Other examples include advertising a consumer’s debt for sale and disclosing their financial matters. Harassment can take many forms, including frequent phone calls, threats of criminal actions, and unwarranted intimidation that could cause physical harm or emotional distress.

12. Is publishing a list of consumers who refuse to pay debts allowed?

The FDCPA doesn’t allow debt collectors to publish a list of consumers refusing to pay their proven or alleged debt for communication or other purposes. This action aims to shame or embarrass debtors by disclosing their information to the public, increasing the risk of physical, reputational, or emotional harm.

13. Can collectors advertise debts for sale?

Advertising debts for sale is illegal, as per section 1692 d(4) of the FDCPA violations checklist. Hence, collectors cannot treat consumer debt as a commodity that can be traded, as it can lead to harmful consequences. For instance, ads advertising debt can cause embarrassment to consumers. It can also affect their professional or personal relationships. Therefore, the FDCPA prohibits debt advertising to ensure debt collection is lawful and ethical.

14. Can debt collectors claim affiliation with Federal or State Governments?

Per Section 1692e(1) of the FDCPA violations checklist, debt collectors cannot claim affiliation with local, state, or federal government entities in the United States. The core purpose of this regulation is to ensure collectors or representatives don’t manipulate or deceive consumers by creating a false perception of higher authority.

Many debt collectors use lies and deceit to threaten consumers to repay their debts. In many cases, they threaten to take legal action they have no authority to take, such as arresting and imprisoning debtors or suing them. The FDCPA prohibits threats in debt collection communications to ensure collectors don’t use fear and intimidation to coerce consumers into making payments forcefully.

16. How does the FDCPA address the issue of hostile communication with consumers?

The FDCPA addresses the issue of hostile communication with consumers by outlining rules and guidelines that stop debt collectors from harassing, abusing, or threatening debtors. It provides the best practices collectors should follow when communicating with consumers to prevent emotional distress, fear, and other consequences of hostile tactics that could lead to legal action.

17. Can debt collectors contact a consumer’s employer about their debt?

No. Debt collectors can only contact a consumer’s employer under limited circumstances, such as with the consumer’s written consent or to locate a consumer and obtain contact information. Moreover, if their employer disapproves, collectors cannot communicate with debtors at their workplace.

18. Is it a violation to contact a consumer after they have requested the collector to cease communication?

Yes, this is a clear violation of the FDCPA. Debt collectors cannot contact consumers who request their collector to cease communication (temporarily or indefinitely) through a written request. Even though debtors owe money to certain entities, they still have rights that must be respected and protected. Hence, this FDCPA provision gives them some control over their debt communications and stops unsolicited calls, emails, or messages.

19. What information must be included in a validation notice sent to the consumer?

A validation notice to a consumer must contain the total debt amount, the creditor’s name, and statements informing them of their right to dispute, including the fact that the consumer has 30 days to dispute the debt in writing before it is assumed valid. Notices sent without the information above may be violating the FDCPA.

Yes, debt collectors are prohibited from communicating false information with consumers. False information may include (but not be limited to) inaccurate debt amount, false judicial standing, or misleading characteristics. For instance, a shady debt collector could deceive consumers into paying a debt that creditors or other bodies have discharged.

21. What actions are considered unfair or unconscionable under the FDCPA?

The FDCPA scrutinizes unfair or unconscionable debt collection methods, actions, or practices. For instance, some collectors take post-dated checks by more than 5 days from consumers but fail to provide written notice outlining the intent to deposit. Meanwhile, others limit or revoke access to a consumer’s property, including their homes, cars, etc., holding them illegally as collateral until they receive their payments.

22. Are collectors required to provide a validation notice to consumers after initial communication?

Yes, the FDCPA mandates sending a validation notice to consumers within five days of the initial communication. The notice must contain the following:

  • the total debt amount;
  • the creditor’s details;
  • notice that the consumer has 30 days to dispute the debt before its assumed valid;
  • notice that upon such written dispute, the debt collector will send the consumer a verification of the debt or copy of any judgment; and
  • if the original creditor is different than the current creditor, notice that if the consumer makes a written request for the name and address of the original creditor within the 30-day period, the debtor collector will provide the information.

Have you been a victim unfair debt collection practices? Contact us today to ensure your rights are protected and to speak with experienced lawyers about your options.

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