Once upon a time in America, the debt collection process was similar to the gunfights that unfolded in the Wild West. As the bad guys, debt collection agencies had much more legal firepower than what consumers brought to the table.
Threats, verbal abuse, and the implementation of deceptive techniques gave third party debt collectors the upper hand in the debt collection process. Eventually, a monumental federal consumer protection law leveled the legal playing field between consumers and bill collectors.
Passed by the United States Congress in September of 1977, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) represents the American consumer bill of rights. The comprehensive consumer protection law outlaws numerous debt collection tactics that were previously considered legally acceptable.
For example, debt collection agencies are no longer allowed to collect expired debts. Another important component of the FDCPA is the federal law permits consumers to file lawsuits seeking monetary damages for FDCPA violations.
What are the FDCPA Laws in Washington?
As the consumer bill of rights, the FDCPA grants every American the same legal protections. This means a consumer that has ensured aggressive debt collection practices in Anchorage, Alaska enjoys the same legal protections that someone enjoys who lives in Miami, Florida.
Like most states, Washington has passed into law several FDCPA provisions, many of which mimic the legal language written into the FDCPA. The state has also created a statute of limitations provisions that gives third party debt collectors six years to collect delinquent credit card and personal loan balances.
After six years, consumer debt are considered expired and are no longer valid debts for bill collectors to pursue. The clock on the statute of limitations starts on the last day of activity for a credit card or personal loan account.
Bill Collector Violations under the FDCPA and Washington Collection Laws
According to the FDCPA, a debt collection agency cannot call you at home or on your cell phone between 9 pm and 8 am. Third party debt collectors are prohibited from making frequent phone calls to harass consumers into taking care of outstanding debts.
Both phone call provisions require evidence in the form of a time stamp. However, in Washington, obtaining a time stamp of a phone call with a bill collector will be a difficult thing to accomplish. Washington law stipulates that every party involved in a phone conversation must consent for the conversation to be tape recorded.
Federal FDCPA law bans the use of abusive language and the implementation of deceptive debt collection techniques. One deceptive technique used by bill collectors is to collect more money than is owed on a delinquent debt.
Washington FDCPA laws require debt collection agencies to receive a license, as well as become bonded. State law prohibits unfair and deceptive practices, as well as regulates how a third party debt collector is permitted to communicate with you.
In most cases, Washington FDCPA laws are similar to the provisions written into the federal FDCPA.
Next Steps to Take
If you believe that a debt collector is violating Washington’s FDCPA laws, you should seek the help of an FDCPA attorney. You may be able to seek up to $1,000 in damages for each violation of the FDCPA. An attorney will be able to help navigate you through the entire process.