Fair Debt Collection : your rights
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that determines how a debt collector should operate. In the past many debt collectors have employed heavy-handed tactics to recover debts and the law aims to protect consumers from intimidation and threatening or abusive practice.
Debt collectors must abide by the following rules:
- A debt collector may not call you before 8am or after 9pm.
- Collectors may not harass you with repeated phone calls.
- The debt collector must tell you his or her name on the phone.
- If you have told the debt collector not to contact you at work, or if the collector knows your employer does not approve of such calls then the collector must respect this.
- Within five days of calling you a collection agency must give you written notice of how much you owe and the name of the creditor. It must also tell you how to file a dispute if you disagree with the claim.
- The collection agency must honor a written request from you to stop further contact. After such notice has been given the collection agency is entitled to contact you on one more occasion to tell you how they intend to proceed.
- Fair debt collection practice does not allow for any kind of misrepresentation on behalf of the collector or any use of misleading documentation or false statements.
- Debt recovery agents must not use foul or abusive language or make negative comments about your character, race or religion.
- Debt collection agencies cannot threaten to sue you unless they intend to do so. A debt collection agency cannot sue unless they legally own your debt.
- Debt recovery agents cannot threaten you with violence or arrest should you fail to pay the debt.
- Debt collectors cannot share information about your debt with any of your family other than your spouse.
- Any letter from the debt collector must be enclosed in an envelope and must not have any outward indication that it is from a debt collection agency.
- In the case of collecting debts from unpaid medical debts your healthcare provider cannot supply any details of your health condition to the debt collector.
The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for enforcing the FDCPA. They also offer an online complaints form (click here) for use if you think a debt collection agency has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
However, creditors that collect their own overdue debts are not subject to the FDCPA, nor are government employees collecting on things such as student loans and debts to the IRS. Over half the states have laws dealing with debt collection, however, and it's worth checking your local regulations to see what additional rights you may have.