Fair Debt Collections Practices and Your Rights
If you’ve ever been threatened by a collector or felt a creditor crossed the line in their attempts to collect on an outstanding debt, chances are that behavior may have violated your rights. Even if you have a delinquent account that hasn’t been paid in months, creditors and collectors cannot take any means necessary to collect on what you owe. They are bound by the guidelines set forth under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Dealing with collectors is never easy. Even when the collector strictly follows the FDCPA guidelines, you are still going to receive daily phone calls and you will still have to deal with them until you find a solution.
We can help. By enrolling in a debt management program, you get a team of certified credit counselors on your side to negotiate with creditors and deal with collectors on your behalf. To find out if you qualify, give us a call at 1-800-320-9929 or take the first step online with a request for a Free Debt Analysis.
When Does the FDCPA Apply?
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act is a statute the U.S. Congress added to the Consumer Credit Protection Act in order to protect the rights of consumers who are facing collections on unpaid or delinquent debts. The FDCPA only applies to debts that have been sent to collections, so it does not apply to a creditor attempting to collect on a single late payment. As a general rule of thumb, if you are talking to a collector, your rights are protected by the FDCPA. If you are talking to the creditor directly, this does not fall under the guidelines set by the FDCPA.
This is an important distinction if you are facing collections on outstanding debts. Bear in mind, some credit card companies have their own in-house debt collections departments, so you may think you are talking to the creditor, but you’re actually talking to the collections department. Most creditors will send an account to collections after about three to six months. If you are in doubt, always ask if this account is in collections. If so, you have more rights in controlling how and when the conversations about your debt occurs.
What Does the FDCPA Do?
At a basic level, the FDCPA protects you from abusive, deceptive and unethical collections practices. It makes sure a collector doesn’t cross the line and violate your rights as they try to collect payment on an outstanding debt, and it draws an extremely important line between a collector being aggressive and being abusive.
The first and biggest advantage the FDCPA provides is it allows you to set some ground rules for when the collector may contact you. In general, if you do not specify, collections calls are restricted under the FDCPA to any day between 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM (local time). It also limits the number of collections calls that can be made on a single debt during a single day.
However, the FDCPA also provides that a consumer can limit calls to the hours that are convenient for him/her. If you talk to the collector and restrict the call hours, you are within your rights to make a report to the FTC or CFPB if the collector calls at a time you did not specify. Make sure to include weekends and holidays in your restrictions when you talk to the creditor, as these are not automatically prohibited.
In addition to restricting the call hours, you are also allowed to prevent them from calling again if you don’t intend to pay. To do this, you must submit a letter stating your refusal to pay the debt within 30 days of the collector’s first contact with you. Once they receive the letter, they cannot contact you again; the only action they can take is getting a court order for you to pay. In addition, if you have obtained legal representation, the collector must send all future communication through your attorney.
If you have debts you cannot afford to pay, give us a call at 1-800-320-9929 to speak with a certified credit counselor. A debt management program could reduce your total payments by 30% to 50% and put someone on your side to negotiate with creditors on your behalf. If you have problems with debt, we may have a solution to help. You can also get started online with our Free Debt Analysis.
Continue reading about your rights with FDCPA, Part 2