Fair Debt Collection in Santa Ana - Thomas K. McKnight LLP
What Is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that restricts the actions of third-party debt collectors who are trying to collect debts on behalf of another individual or entity. The law limits the ways that collectors can get in touch with debtors, as well as the time of day and amount of times that contact can be made. If the FDCPA is violated, the debtor can file a claim against the debt collection company along with the individual debt collector for damages and lawyer fees.
How the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Works
The FDCPA does not protect debtors from those who are trying to collect a personal debt. If you owe money to the local hardware store, for instance, and the owner of the shop calls you to collect that debt, that individual is not a debt collector under the terms of this act. The FDCPA only applies to third-party debt collectors, such as those who work for a debt collection agency. Credit card debt, medical bills, student loans, mortgages, and other types of household debt are covered by the law.
Example of When and How Debt Collectors Can Contact Debtors
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act specifies that debt collectors can not contact debtors at inconvenient times. That means they must not call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless the debtor and the collector have made an agreement for a call to happen outside of the permitted hours. If a debtor tells a collector that they wish to speak after work at 10 p.m., for instance, the collector is permitted to call then. Without an invitation or agreement, however, the debtor can not legally call during that time. Debt collectors may also send letters, emails, or text messages to collect a debt.
Debt collectors can try to get in touch with debtors at their homes or place of work. However, if a debtor asks a bill collector, either verbally or in writing, to quit calling their place of work, the collector must not call that number again.
Within five days of contacting a debtor, the debt collector must send a written "validation notice" that includes:
- How much money the debtor owes
- The name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed
- Notice that they have 30 days to contest the debt and what to do
Debtors can also prevent collectors from calling their home phones, but they have to put the request in a letter and send it to the debt collector. It's a good idea to send the letter by certified mail and pay for a return receipt so that you have proof that the debt collector received the request.
If a collector does not have contact information for a debtor, they can call family members, neighbors, or associates of the debtor to try to find the debtor's phone number, but they can not reveal any information regarding the debt, including the fact that they are calling from a debt collection agency. (The collector may only talk about the debt with the debtor or their spouse.) Furthermore, collectors can only call third parties one time each.
The regulation makes it illegal for debt collectors to harass debtors in various other ways, including threats of bodily harm or incarceration. They also can not lie or use profane or obscene language. Furthermore, debt collectors can not threaten to take legal action against a debtor unless they genuinely plan to take that debtor to court.