What a Debt Collection Agency Must Do:
- Identify Themselves: Specifically, agencies must alert the debtor that they are a debt collector and that any information they obtain can be used to collect debt. In addition, the debt collector must notify the debtor that they have a right to dispute the claim. Think of this like Miranda Rights for debtors.
- Supply the Name and Address of Original Creditor: This is fairly self-explanatory, but a debt collector must inform the debtor where the debt originated.
- Provide Verification of the Debt: If a debtor demands some sort of proof of the debt (generally a receipt or report), the debt collector must provide this verification before continuing attempts to retrieve funds. Note that the debtor must make this request within a month of the original contact from the agency.
What a Debt Collection Agency Can't Do:
- Communicate in a harassing manner. There are many different prohibitions on how, when, and how often a debt collector can communicate with a debtor. A debt collector can not:
- Call the debtor before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Contact the debtor in an annoying, harassing, or abusive manner.
- Call the debtor at his or her work (so long as the debtor advises this is inappropriate)
- Contact the debtor if he or she has retained an attorney
- Use abusive, vulgar, or profane language
- Misrepresent the debt amount
- Misrepresent themselves as a lawyer or law enforcement officer
- Contact a third party, outside the debtor's spouse or attorney, where applicable
- Threaten legal action that is not "actually contemplated"
- Report false information: Debt collectors are forbidden from providing false information to credit report agencies or other business. They are also disallowed from threatening to do so.
- Broadcast Debtor's Name: A debt collection agency is also not allowed to publish the name, address, or other personal information of the debtor on any "bad debt" lists.
- Contact after a validation request or refusal to pay: Lastly, debt collectors are forbidden from calling, writing, or otherwise contacting a debtor if the debtor disputes or refuses to pay the debt. Although legal action can be taken, further contact after refusal is considered harassment. Likewise, if the debtor requests validation of the debt (usually in the form of a receipt or report), the debt collector must provide this proof before further contact is made.
The FDCPA was set-up largely to protect debtors and consumers from unscrupulous debt collectors. But note that most of the prohibitions on their actions are straight-forward and fair. Debt collectors simply can't hound debtors, lie to them, misrepresent themselves or the debt, and must treat the debtor with respect. Avoiding debt collection should always be your aim, but if you find yourself in need of a debt collection agency, make sure you hire one in good standing, who understands the FDCPA, and will treat your clients and customers with respect.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.