What is the Fair Debt Collections Act?

If you have fallen behind in paying on your credit cards, medical bills, utilities, rent or mortgage payments or student or car loans, you know what it’s like: the fear of answering the phone and the dread of going to the mailbox.

Once you have missed too many payments, the debt collectors come calling.

Many of these are third-party debt collectors or collection agencies whose business it is to collect debts on behalf of those to whom you originally owed the debt, be it a credit card company, the electric company, a hospital or doctor’s office, your cell phone provider or your landlord.

If these debt collectors seem relentless, here is the reason why.

According to a study, “(Collection) agencies recovered approximately $78.5 billion in total debt in 2016, on which they earned close to $10.9 billion in commissions and fees.”

Debt collection is big business.

Federal law protects you from debt collector abuse

Signed into law in 1977, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act was enacted to stop nightmarish acts by debt collectors.

Prior to the law, debt collectors sometimes used tactics that included threats of physical violence or arrest and other extreme measures.

Under the Fair Debt Collections Act, debt collectors are required to stay within the limits of the law.

This means:

      • Debt collectors cannot call at unusual hours: They are prohibited from calling you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in your time zone. You can request that they stop calling you or even sending you notification by mail, although this does not remove your obligation to pay the debt.
      • They cannot contact you at work or notify your co-workers: Once you have told debt collectors that they cannot call you at work, they must stop immediately. They can never show up at your place of employment nor can they reveal to your co-workers or employer that they are calling to collect a debt.
      • It is illegal for debt collectors to use threatening, harassing or intimidating tactics: This includes abusive language, excessive phone calls, threats of arrest, threats of or physical violence or publishing information about you and your debt. They can (and in all likelihood, will) pressure you to pay the debt, but they cannot take measures that are outside the bounds of the law.

You have legal recourse when debt collectors break the law

Dealing with debt collectors is uncomfortable at best, but they are legally obligated to follow the law under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

If you have been harassed or threatened, if a debt collector has continued to call you at your job when specifically told not to or has been overly aggressive, you have the right to sue them.

Skilled legal guidance

To learn more about your rights as a consumer or to discuss your circumstances, contact Bronx bankruptcy attorney Thomas M. Denaro at (718) 863-6000 or contact our office online to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Thomas M. Denaro
About the Author: Thomas Denaro
Thomas M. Denaro is an experienced bankruptcy attorney serving the Bronx and surrounding areas. He represents Bronx families in bankruptcy court, and has handled thousands of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases from beginning to end.