No one wants to be the subject of a debt collections act, especially if it involves being harassed by debt collectors. It is for this reason that the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act or FDCPA exists, to ensure fairness and protection in the collection of consumer debts.
However, does that still mean that you should hire an attorney if you find yourself needing to file an FDCPA Claim against a debt collector who violated fair debt collection practices?
We have asked a legal expert, attorney Alaina Sullivan, about what you should do. Here is what she had to say:
What is the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act?
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act or FDCPA is actually part of a larger consumer credit protection act. This act was created to provide guidelines and promote fairness in the collection of consumer debts.
It serves to provide guidelines to both parties involved, the consumer and the creditor or debt collector.
This specific section clarifies what must be done to be able to collect on a debt and what must be provided to the consumer to ensure validity of the debt.
What Does the FDCPA Cover?
Collectors who contact a consumer must inform the consumer of who they are and the collection agency they represent. The collector must also give verification of the debt and inform the consumer that the consumer has the legal right to dispute the debt within 30 days.
The FDCPA also prohibits disrespectful treatment of consumers, meaning the collection agencies cannot use abusive or obscene language when talking with the consumers.
They also are prohibited from repeatedly calling or contacting a consumer, bordering on harassment.
The FDCPA allows consumers to sue consumer collectors who:
- Threaten or harass the consumer;
- Make calls at odd hours;
- Make false statements about the debts for which the company are collecting;
- Make threats to sue the consumer when the company has no intent to file suit;
- Make threats by contacting friends and family members of the consumers;
- Contact other third parties who would have information about the consumer and reveal information about the money owed;
- Threaten to file criminal charges and even threaten jail time if the consumer does not pay;
- Continue to make collection efforts even though the consumer advised the company to stop;
- Make false or misleading statements in printed collection documents;
- Reporting inaccurate information about the consumer to a credit bureau; or
- Engage in any acts that would be prohibited by the FDCPA.
Utilizing the FDCPA
Damages available under the FDCPA are normally monetary and are limited to $1,000 against a creditor for an FDCPA violation plus actual damages and attorneys’ fees.
The actual damages can include medical or psychological trauma, as well as direct financial loss, such as from an improperly reduced credit score.
What Can an FDCPA Attorney Do?
If an individual is facing unfair debt collections proceedings, the entire situation can be extremely stressful and confusing. Many consumers do not fully understand the FDCPA and the options available to them, much less what's needed to file a claim Under the FDCPA, the consumer can sue the debt collector in state court.
However, once that suit is brought, the consumer will almost always find that the debt collector comes armed with legal counsel. Having an attorney on the side of the consumer shows that he or she is serious about the claim and provides an air of professionalism that would not be present if the individual chooses to face the other side without counsel.
The consumer can seek to file a claim in small claims court, as well, which is a simpler proceeding, but the credit agency will still likely have counsel at this hearing, as well.
An additional benefit to having an attorney on the case is that he or she can help negotiate a settlement with the debt collector, if that is possible.
He or she can also field calls from the other side’s attorney, taking that additional stress off of the shoulders of the consumer, someone who has already dealt with a great deal of stress leading up to the law suit.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you find yourself dealing with debt collectors, and it has gotten to the point where the debt collector has now violated the FDCPA, it may be time for you to talk with an attorney about your situation. An attorney can listen to the facts of the case and can best advise you on how to proceed.
Contact an attorney experienced in fair debt collections proceedings to schedule a consultation today.