Common violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) are the topic of this blog post. This post will focus on violations of the Federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act found in Title 15 of the United States Code, section 1692, et seq. although many states, including California have their own version.
Debtors have certain rights and if they do not know what their rights are they cannot stand up for their rights. I believe in empowering people with legal information that gives them at least a basic knowledge of their rights so that they can deal with debt collectors with confidence and will not tolerate abusive behavior. Debt collectors sometime take advantage of the fact that many people have no idea what their rights are.
The most important difference between the Federal version of the FDCPA and the California version is that the federal version ONLY applies to third-party debt collectors such as collection agencies and their employees and does NOT apply to an original creditor which basically means any company that is collecting their own debts. In contrast the California version of the FDCPA applies to anyone who regularly engages in debt collection in the ordinary course of business on behalf of himself or herself or others.
The prohibited acts that I have listed below are some of the most common violations of the FDCPA.
The Federal FDCPA states that third-party debt collectors CANNOT:
Contact a debtor before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless that debtor has asked them to;
Contact a debtor at work once the debtor informs that they do not want to be contacted at work;
Use threats of violence or harm against a debtor;
Publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts although they legally provide this information to credit bureaus;
Use obscene or profane language;
Repeatedly use the phone to annoy someone;
Falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives;
Falsely claim that the debtor has committed a crime by not paying a debt;
Falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company;
Misrepresent the amount that the debtor owes;
Indicate that any documents they send to the debtor are legal forms if they aren’t, or indicate that any documents they send to the debtor aren’t legal forms if they are.
Claim that the debtor can be arrested if they don’t pay the debt;
Threaten to seize, garnish, attach, or sell property or wages of the debtor unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so;
Threaten legal action in cases where doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the legal action;
Provide false credit information about a debtor to anyone, including a credit reporting company;
Send anything to a debtor that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t;
Use a false company name;
Try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount owed unless the contract that created the debt or state law where the debtor resides allows the charge;
Deposit a post-dated check early;
Take or threaten to take property of the debtor unless it can be done legally;
Contact a debtor by postcard, or
Contact a debtor after they have received a letter from the debtor stating that they do not wish to be contacted any further about the debt. The collector can still contact the debtor to confirm there will be no further contact or to advise the debtor of additional actions being taken against the debtor, such as a lawsuit.
I know from my own personal knowledge that some debt collection agencies do often violate the FDCPA as some years ago I briefly worked in the Southern California offices of a major nationwide debt collection agency and I personally witnessed with my own eyes and ears several of their employees cursing and swearing at debtor’s using very obscene and profane language, repeatedly calling debtor’s, threatening to seize personal property of the debtor such as “their precious household goods” as well as calling the debtor at work even though they had been requested not to.
In fact I recently “Googled” the name of that company and discovered that shortly after I resigned the company entered into a settlement and consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission over charges that they repeatedly violated the FDCPA. However I have also dealt with collection agencies that did not violate the FDCPA so I also realize that not all debt collectors are abusive. As with any other business there are always a few “bad apples.”
Attorneys or parties in California that would like to view a portion of a sample complaint for violations of both the California and Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act including brief instructions sold by the author can see below.
The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is an entrepreneur and freelance paralegal that has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995 and has created over 300 sample legal documents for California and Federal litigation. If you are in need of assistance with any California or Federal litigation matters, Mr. Burman is available on a freelance basis. Mr. Burman may be contacted by e-mail at DivParalgl@yahoo.com for more information. He accepts payments through PayPal which means that you can pay using most credit or debit cards.
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Please note that the author of this blog post, Stan Burman is NOT an attorney and as such is unable to provide any specific legal advice. The author is NOT engaged in providing any legal, financial, or other professional services, and any information contained in this blog post is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.
The materials and information contained in this blog post have been prepared by Stan Burman for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained in this blog post is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any business relationship between the author and any readers. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.