Federal and state laws protect consumers from various debt collection practices. Some of the laws apply to the original creditor, while other laws apply only to debt collectors. In all cases, laws designed to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive acts used to collect debts seek to prevent a consumer from being harassed or mistreated. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is one of those laws.
Protections Available to Consumers Under the FDCPA
The FDCAP is a federal law that applies to debt collectors. Debt collectors are not the original party who owned the debt. A debt collector is a third party who purchased the debt from the original creditor, a company hired by the original creditor to collect a debt (debt collection companies), or attorneys who regularly collect debts as part of their business.
The FDCPA does not apply to business debts. It does apply to debts such as medical bills, mortgage loans, auto loans, student loans, credit card debt, and other household debts.
Under the FDCPA, the actions a debt collector may take to collect a debt are restricted. Some of the restrictions that are included in the FDCPA to protect consumers from creditor harassment include:
- Debt collectors are permitted to contact an individual by calling, texting, emailing, or sending letters to that person. However, debt collectors cannot call a person during certain hours of the day or evening without permission from the person.
- Debt collectors cannot call a person at work if they have been told that the person is not allowed to receive calls at work.
- A debt collector must stop contact if it receives a written request to stop contacting the person. The only contact permitted after that is to tell the person that the debt collector received the written notice or to tell the person about a specific action that is being taken, such as the filing of a debt collection lawsuit.
- Debt collectors are typically prohibited from discussing your debts with anyone other than you, unless you authorize the debt collector to speak with someone else, such as your attorney.
- The use of threats, obscene language, and profane language is prohibited.
- Debt collectors are not permitted to harass you to collect a debt, such as repeatedly using the telephone to annoy you.
- The debt collector cannot use false or misleading information to collect the debt. Debt collectors cannot pretend to be law enforcement officers, government officials, or attorneys.
- Debt collectors cannot lie to you and tell you that you will be arrested for the debt or that specific legal action is going to be taken against you when it is not true.
The FDCPA also contains provisions related to collecting time-barred debts, filing debt collection lawsuits, and other actions that a debt collector may take to collect a debt.
If you believe that you are the victim of creditor harassment, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the Arizona State Attorney General’s Office. You may also contact a Gilbert FDCPA attorney to discuss your legal rights and your options for stopping creditor harassment.
Filing Bankruptcy to Stop Debt Collection Efforts
It may feel as if a debt collector is harassing you, even though the debt collector has not broken the law. It can be overwhelming to receive numerous letters and telephone calls each day from creditors and debt collectors. Unfortunately, the only way to stop debt collection efforts is to resolve the debt problem.
If you cannot afford to pay the debts, you may want to explore bankruptcy options to get rid of the debts. Filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case could get rid of the debts and stop creditor harassment. Filing bankruptcy stops collection efforts, including debt collection lawsuits, foreclosures, repossessions, and wage garnishments.
Through a bankruptcy filing, you can get rid of:
- Medical debts
- Personal loans
- Credit cards
- Deficiency judgments
- Old lease and rent payments
- Some old tax debts
- Old utility bills
You can also protect your property and future income from being used to repay debts by claiming the equity in assets as exempt.