Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Things you should know about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

If you are being hounded by debt collectors–or even one debt collector–you may have the opportunity to turn the tables and collect against the debt collector. A number of federal consumer protection laws provide powerful tools to limit obnoxious, embarrassing, and even fraudulent debt collection behaviors and painful remedies to debt collectors that violate them.

What makes the FDCPA so powerful?

The FDCPA was created in response to the severe collection practices that had developed, including many tactics now recognized as unethical. Before the Act, debt collectors brazenly contacted you at night or at your workplace, identifying themselves to your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers as a debt collector and plying them for information about when you might be paid. They would make false threats in order to collect from you, such as criminal prosecution (which is usually unavailable to enforce a consumer debt) or seizure of your property.

What is covered by the FDCPA?

The FDCPA was created to protect consumers from harassment and humiliation, and you would think that it would apply broadly to everyone acting abusively to collect a debt. Unfortunately, possibly owing to the efforts of lobbyists, it is subject to certain limitations. Significant categories of collectors are excluded, certain categories of debts are excluded, and only certain specific acts are included. Without a short review of each case, it is impossible to determine whether someone has violated your rights and therefore may be obligated to pay you a statutory penalty.

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