If you default on any kind of personal debt, the original creditor can hire a collection agency or even sell your debt to a third-party. If any such collection agency or third-party collector has contacted you to collect a debt, it is important to understand the rights that you have, as accorded by the country’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
What is FDCPA?
Originally enacted by the 95th United States Congress in 1977, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law that governs practices related to collection of debt. It aims to safeguard the interest of borrowers against unfair and deceptive practices. Debts that fall under the purview of the FDCPA include credit cards, lines of credit, personal loans, mortgages, as well as other most other types of debts taken for personal reasons.
Debt collectors, as defined by the FDCPA, include debt buyers, collection agencies, and attorneys whose primary business includes collection of debts. Collection of debt by original creditors typically falls outside the purview of the FDCPA.
In October 2020, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection issued a final ruling that reinstated and clarified previously laid out prohibitions. It also emphasized that the act applies on newer communication technologies such as text messages, social media messages, and emails.
How Does the FDCPA Protect Borrowers?
The FDCPA was enacted with the aim of promoting fair debt collection and eliminating abusive practices involved in the process. It also gives borrowers means to dispute debts and obtain validation of debt in a streamlined manner.
Here are other borrower-oriented rules of the FDCPA.
Protection From Abusive Practices
According to the FDCPA, collectors cannot use abusive practices or harass you while trying to collect on unpaid debts. The act specifies that collectors:
- Cannot use abusive language
- Cannot threaten you
- Cannot use violence
- Cannot call you repeatedly
- Cannot make knowledge of your debt public
- Have to identify themselves as collectors
If you feel a debt collector is being overly aggressive, there could be a possibility that you’re at the receiving end of a debt collection scam.
Control to Communicate is in Your Hands
The FDCPA gives you the right to ask a collector to stop calling you completely. However, you need to do so in writing. After the updated 2020 FDCPA ruling takes effect later this year, you will be able to limit how collectors communicate with you via newer communication methods such as emails, text messages, and social media messages.
In its current form, the FDCPA stipulates that:
- Collectors can contact you only between 8 am and 9 pm.
- They may contact you at work only if you have no objections.
- They need to communicate with your attorney if you so desire.
Bear in mind that even if a collector stops contacting you, you are still liable to repay the debt.
You Get Facts
The FDCPA restricts collectors from using misleading, deceptive, and false information when trying to collect debts. However, while the act prohibits collectors from lying, they might choose not to give you the information you seek. For instance, if you’re wondering whether a particular debt is past its statute of limitations, you might need to contact an attorney. When asked to, a collector must validate your debt in writing. Debt collectors also need to be honest when informing you about any possible legal repercussions.
If you feel a debt collector has violated your rights, you get two basic options. One is to file a complaint via the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The other is to sue the collection agency by contacting an attorney who specializes in debt collection. In both scenarios, keeping records of correspondence between the agency and you will help corroborate your claims.