Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) – Understanding Your Rights
The purpose of the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is to “eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to insure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and to promote consistent State action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692 (e).
The Arizona Rules essentially mirror the federal law. Collection agencies must be licensed to practice in Arizona.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS:
1. Right to keep financial situation private. Under FDCPA, collectors are not allowed to disclose WHY they are trying to locate you (to anyone other than spouse, legal guardian, or attorney). Anything sent in the mail cannot have anything that would indicate it is for the purpose of collecting a debt.
2. Debt collectors cannot contact you whenever they like. Under FDCPA, collectors may not contact at a time they ought to reasonably believe would be inconvenient. Generally, they may not contact before 8am or after 9pm. They also may not contact a person at work if they have reason to know or believe such communication is prohibited at your job.
3. You are NOT required to endure threatening behavior. Prohibited behavior includes: false threats of legal action, threats of force, threats of public humiliation, obscene or abusive language, cashing post-dated checks in advance of the date, other intimidating or unfair methods.
4. YOU have the power to STOP the communication. You may either write a letter to the creditor to cease communications or hire an attorney to represent you. Once a creditor is aware you are legally represented, it is a violation of FDCPA for that creditor to directly contact you without express consent of your attorney to do so.
5. You have LEGAL CAUSE OF ACTION in the event of a violation. Consumers are entitled to recover up to $1,000 plus reasonable attorney fees if a creditor is proven to have violated any of the act’s provisions.
What Collection Agencies MUST do:
Truthfully represent who they are and be truthful in all representations made to you.
Only contact you during reasonable hours.
Investigate any claim that you don’t owe the debt.
Make reasonable efforts to contact you at home and not at work.
Within 5 days of first contact, they must inform you of: the name of the creditor, the time and place the debt was created, the purchase or service that created the debt, the date the creditor turned over the account for collection.
What Collection Agencies CANNOT do:
Make false threats of filing a lawsuit with no intent to actually sue.
Send you written material that imitates legal documents.
Directly contact you once they know a lawyer is representing you.
Contact you after receiving your written request to stop.
Use oppressive tactics designed to harass you into making payments.
Use humiliating, abusive, or obscene language to coerce payment.
Call you a criminal.
Inform a third party of your debt.