Consumer Financial Protection Law
If you’re struggling with debt and have fallen behind on your bills, it will likely come as no surprise to you that debt collectors don’t always play fair. What you may not know is that federal law protects consumers from abusive debt collection practices and inaccurate credit reporting.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
The FDCPA is a federal statute that sets forth restrictions and requirements for third party debt collectors such as collection agencies and debt buyers.
Communications Under the FDCPA
Some of the core FDCPA protections relating to communications include:
- Strict limitations on communications with third parties
- A prohibition on contacting a consumer known to be represented by an attorney
- Restrictions on calling at “inconvenient” times, generally earlier than 8 a.m. or later than 9 p.m.
- A prohibition on contacting the consumer at work if the consumer’s employer prohibits such contact
A requirement that verbal and written communications explicitly advise the consumer that the communication is an attempt to collect a debt
The FDCPA also governs the manner in which debt collectors may interact with consumers, including prohibition of:
- Threats of violence or other criminal actions
- Repeated harassing telephone calls
- False representation of the legal status of the debt
- Falsely claiming or implying that legal action is underway
- Use of obscene or profane language
- Adding fees, interest or other charges not authorized by the original agreement or applicable law
The debt collector must make the consumer aware of his or her right to dispute the debt. If the debt is disputed within 30 days of the initial contact, the collector must cease collection activity until the debt has been validated.
Penalties for Violating the FDCPA
A third party collector who violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act may be liable for actual damages plus up to $1,000.
Learn even more about the FDCPA
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects consumers from inaccurate reporting to consumer credit reporting agencies such as TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Some of those protections include access to your own credit reports and notification if information from a credit reporting agency has resulted in an adverse determination, such as denial of credit or a rental application being declined.
To assist you in monitoring your credit reports for inaccurate information, you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major agencies listed above each year. While many consumers are aware that they should monitor their credit reports, and even that they can obtain free reports annually, most don’t know the full extent of the protection offered by the FCRA.
Responsibilities of Credit Reporting Agencies
You have the right to dispute inaccurate or outdated information on your credit report. When you do, the credit reporting agency has a responsibility to:
- Delete or correct inaccurate information; and
- Delete any negative information that is more than seven years old (10 years for bankruptcy)
Failure to fulfill these obligations may result in civil liability to the consumer.
Responsibilities of Creditors and Debt Collectors
The FCRA doesn’t just impose obligations and restrictions on credit reporting agencies. Creditors and debt collectors may also be subject to liability under the FCRA if they:
- Make false reports to the credit reporting agency
- Misrepresent the outstanding balance on a debt
- Continue to report debt that is more than seven years old
Consumer Protection Statutes
The above is just a brief summary of some of the key protections for consumers under the FDCPA and the FCRA. Additional protections are included in each statute, and there are additional state and federal laws designed to protect consumers from dishonest debt collectors and fraudulent or sloppy credit reporting.
Talk to a Consumer Protection Lawyer
If you’re being harassed by debt collectors, have been subjected to abusive collection tactics, have erroneous information on your credit report that you’ve been unable to clear up or otherwise believe your rights have been violated, get in touch today. You may be entitled to financial recovery.Just click on the button below or call us at (562) 257-6576.