We at McDonald Worley, are committed to fighting the unacceptable and felonious conduct of banks and various debt collectors. We have a long consumer protection track record of assisting our clients to recover money. When you come to us for help, we will assign you an experienced debt collection attorney that will handle your case and help you recover the compensation you are entitled to so that you can resume your life.
Our team of attorneys helps people who are harassed by bill and debt collectors. If you are being hassled by such individuals and are not sure if their actions amount to harassment, we are here to help you. We are a legal firm that has experience in different legal practices in the area of financial law. Feel free to get in touch with us for a Free Case Evaluation. One of you experienced lawyers will evaluate your claim and get back to you.
What is the Purpose of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?
This is a federally enacted law that sets limits on the actions of external third-party collectors of debts who are attempting to recover debts on behalf of another entity or person. This law which was amended in 2010 restricts the methods and the means that debt collectors can use to contact debtors and the time of the day and the appropriate number of times that the debtor can be contacted. If the law is violated, the debt collection company and the individual collector who violated the law can be sued within a period of one year for legal fees and damages.
How Does the FCDPA Work?
This law does not protect debtors from individuals who are trying to recover a debt that is personal in nature. For example, if you owe money to a local hardware store, if the owner calls on you to collect what is owed to them, they are not classified as a debt collector under the FDCPA. This law only applies to debt collectors who are acting at the behest of a third-party such as collectors who work on behalf of a debt collection agency. Medical bill debts, mortgages, student loans, credit card debts and other types of household debts are not covered by the FDCPA.
When Can a Debt Collector Contact a Debtor?
A violation to the FDCPA can occur if a debt collector contacts a debtor at a time that is deemed to be inconvenient. This means that a debt collector should not call a debtor before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless there was a prior agreement between both parties that the collector can contact the debtor outside these hours. If there is no such arrangement, it is illegal for a collector to call outside these hours. Debt collectors can however send emails, letters or text messages when attempting to collect a debt.
How Can a Debt Collector Contact a Debtor?
Debt collectors can try to reach debtors at the office or at home. However, if the debtor expresses to the debt collector either in writing or verbally that they should stop calling at the office, the debt collector should cease calling at the place of work immediately.
Within a period of five days after getting in touch with a debtor, the debt collector must send the debtor a ‘validation notice’ that should include:
- The amount that is owed
- The name of the creditor that is owed the money
- What to do if the debt collector is calling on the wrong person
How Can a Debtor Stop a Collector from Calling Their Home Phone?
Persons with debt can also prevent collectors from calling their homes by sending a written letter to the debt collector. It is best to send this letter using certified mail and at the same time ask for a return receipt so that there is proof that the request letter was sent and received by the debt collector.
Can a Debt Collector Contact Relatives of the Debtor?
If a debt collector does not have information on how to reach the debtor, they can call neighbors, relatives or persons who are associated with the debtor while trying to find a phone number they can use to reach the debtor. However, the collector cannot divulge any information on the debt and they should also not reveal that they are calling from a collection agency. (Debt collectors can only discuss the debt with the spouse of the debtor or the debtor) Additionally, the debt collector is only allowed to call a third-party only once.
Can a Debt Collector Speak To Anyone Other Than the Debtor About the Amount Owed?
Collectors can only tell the debtor about the debt and request for payment. At times, the collectors can help in creating a payment plan or a form of settlement to help the debtor pay what they owe. The FDCPA is in place to protect debtors from getting harassed by debt collectors. The FCDA stipulates that it is illegal for collectors to harass persons with debt and in particular threaten them with arrest or bodily harm. The collectors are also prohibited from using profanities and obscene language in the course of pursuing debtors. Debt collectors cannot also threaten a debtor with legal action unless they truly intend to do this.
What Grounds Can You Use to File a Lawsuit Against a Debt Collection Agency?
Perhaps you are feeling that you are being harassed by a collector working at the behest of a collection agency and you are wondering if you can sue them. Below are some common reasons why you can sue a collector who is harassing you:
When they can’t prove you owe the debt
According to the FDCPA, debt collectors should provide you with the name of the creditor they are working for, the amount that you the creditor and a verification that you indeed owe the debt.
When You’ve Been Unreasonably Hounded
According to the FDCPA, debt collectors are forbidden from harassing an individual with a debt at all. Harassment can occur if they are giving you repetitive calls, threatening to harm you or using obscene language when asking you to pay what you owe.
There are legal means that you can use to dissuade debt collectors from ever contacting you again. For example, you can write to the collector asking them to desist from calling you. In writing, they can only call you to let you know that they will not contact you in the future or to inform you when they are taking further legal action. Additionally, if you inform a collector that you are being represented by a lawyer, they cannot contact you directly but must go through your attorney. If a collector continues contacting you after you have taken the steps mentioned above, they are in violation of the FDCPA.
Under the provisions of the TCPA and FDCPA, you can also inform a collector that there are numbers that they cannot use to contact you such as your office number or cell phone number.
When the Debt Collector States an Untruth
If a collector, provides you with any information that is not true and factually correct, they are violating the law. For example, a collector can threaten to take you to court even when they do not have the power, pretend to be a lawyer or say that you owe less or more than you do. In every state, there is a statute of limitations for a company suing you over a debt. If the statute of limitations has past and the collector threatens to take you to court, then they are in violation of the FDCPA.
What are Your Options When a Debt Collector Violates the FDCPA?
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provides protection from uncouth actions done by debt collection agencies and debt collectors. If a debt collector has violated the FDCPA when dealing with you, there are few things you can do to get justice. This can be anything reporting the acts to government agencies to suing them and even using the violations as a strategy on the debt. Let us take a closer look at these options:
Sue in Small Claims Court
A small claims court proves to be a viable option for individuals who don’t want to hire a lawyer or spend the time needed for a state court lawsuit. A small claims court allows you to argue your case without going through an expedited process or even hiring a lawyer. These types of courts give you one shortened hearing so that you can argue your case to a judge.
More often than not, you simply file a straightforward document to begin the case. The hearings are done less than 2 months after filing the lawsuit. At the hearing, the judge may give a ruling on the spot or assign the case ‘under submission’ whereby you get the ruling at a later date.
The downside of taking the small claims court route is that they limit the amount of damages you can receive. You can check out the 50-State Chart of Small Claims Court Dollar limits to know more about the limit in your region.
Sue The Creditor in State Court
You ideally have the option to file a lawsuit against the creditor in state court. In this case, you need to prove that the debt collection agency violated the FDCPA. If you are able to do so, you can collect at least $1000 in statutory damages and even way more if your sustained harm from the violation. See Damages for FDCPA violations so that you can learn more regarding the amount and type of damages that you can collect in an FDCPA case.
In such a lawsuit, you need to be represented by a lawyer. Keep in mind that the amount of money that you sue for includes the lawyer fee and costs. Also, it’s important to know that this route is the most lengthy and time consuming of all the options out there, but a successful case will give you the most monetary damages.
Report to A Government Agency
The FTC or Federal Trade Commission is tasked with overseeing debt collection agencies actions and making sure that they do not violate the FDCPA. That means if you have any FDCPA concerns, you can get in touch with the FTC.
You can ideally contact CFTB or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This agency takes consumer complaints, passes them to the debt collector and then works with both parties to find a viable solution to the issue. You can also submit an online complaint at consumerfinance.gov/complaint.
Use The FDCPA Violation as Leverage in Negotiating Debt Collection
If you’re trying to pay the debt and the creditor violates the FDCPA, it’s possible to use the violation to negotiate of debt settlement terms. This usually works as these agencies now that a FCDPA lawsuit can be expensive to defend and is likely to lead to a judgement against them. Of course, the leverage you get by threatening to sue depends on the strength of your case. If you have strong evidence showing a violation such as records of multiple calls, multiple letters, testimony of people who received phone calls, and the like, then you will have more leverage in debt settlement.
Report The Violation to the State Attorney General
The creditor can ideally be violating state laws, in addition to acting against the FDCPA. As such, you may want to contact the state Attorney General’s office to get advice on a possible lawsuit as well as any potential state law actions against the creditor. Most of these offices get complaints against debt collection agencies and if gets enough against one, the office of the state Attorney General may sue on behalf of the state. Take a look at State Consumer Protection Offices to find the Attorney General’s office on your state.
Contact The Debt Collection Lawyers at McDonald Worley
If a bill collector has harassed you, he or she has violated the FDCPA or FCCPA rules. As such, it is your right to seek legal redress with the aid of reputable debt harassment lawyers. We at McDonald Worley are here for you. We also can handle personal injury cases that include workers’ compensation, medical malpractice lawsuits, and road accident lawsuits.