Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

Protecting your rights when you’re dealing with collectors.

Understanding fair debt collection

Have you ever had to deal with a collector that was being so aggressive it felt like that kind of behavior should be illegal? With the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short), there’s a good chance it was just that.

The FDCPA is a vital piece of legislation that keeps you protected against unfair collections tactics. It helps ensure that while collectors can be aggressive in attempting to collect on an outstanding debt, they can only go so far with that aggression within the boundaries of the law.

Fact: The FTC received 117,374 FDCPA collections
complaints for third-party collectors in 2011.

Understanding the FDCPA

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was originally put into law in 1978 as a piece of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. It establishes standards of practices for collecting on outstanding debts. This includes all types of debts, including credit cards, car loans, mortgages, and even unpaid medical bills.

The following list provides a breakdown of the most essential regulations set in place by the FDCPA:

  • Limits hours when collections phone calls can be made – so a collector cannot call you at all hours of the day and night.
  • Limits the number of calls that may be placed for a debt in a single day.
  • Prohibits third-party contact – so a collector is legally prohibited from contacting your employer, co-workers, friends, and family.
  • Prohibits abusive or profane language during conversations, as well as threats of violence or physical harm.
  • Prohibits threats of arrest or legal action when no such action can be taken.
  • Prohibits collectors from reporting false or embellished information on a consumer’s credit report.
  • Restricts media communication to prevent embarrassing marks or symbols from being used on mail in an attempt to embarrass or humiliate the consumer.
  • Makes it illegal for collectors to publish consumer names and addresses on “bad debt list” or other types of credit blacklists.
  • Prohibits contact with a consumer who is known to have legal representation and/or a consumer who has lawfully provided written notice they wish to have no communication and refuse to pay.

Pop Quiz

When is a collector not allowed to call you?

a) 3:00 AM on a weekday

b) 2:00 PM on a Tuesday if you say you can’t receive calls at that time

c) On New Years Day

d) All of the above

Reveal Answer

d) Collectors cannot call on Sundays, National Holidays, or at night. They also can’t call you at a time you say you cannot receive calls.

Return to question

What does the FDCPA really do?

Of course, if you are currently dealing with collectors you may be wondering just what benefit the FDCPA actually provides. After all, your collectors are probably calling every day to attempt to collect and using what can seem like every trick in the book to do it.

In truth, unless their behavior violates one of the above restrictions, the practice is considered fair. A creditor can absolutely call you every day, but they cannot call forty times in one day. They can even threaten, but those threats have to fall within the limits of the law. So if the company is seeking a court-order against you, they can tell you that… as long as it’s true.

With the FDCPA, timing is everything

For the FDCPA to apply, you have to dealing with a collector.

What does that mean? Typically, that the debt is at least 6 months past due.

If you are just late with a payment one month, this hasn’t officially been sent to collections. Only after the debt has been sent to either an in-house or third-party collections office are the collector’s practices limited by the FDCPA. That typically happens after six months of nonpayment.

Attempts to receive payment prior to a debt being sent collections are not regulated by the FDCPA. Additionally, if you get any for of legal representation for something like bankruptcy, it means you are prohibited from being contacted according to the FDCPA. They must go through your attorney.