Protecting Consumer Rights through FDCPA Litigation
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers from abusive and deceptive actions by third-party debt collectors.
What is a Third-Party Debt Collector?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply to original creditors, such as a hospital that provided treatment to a consumer or a credit card issuer. Rather, the FDCPA governs the actions of entities that are in the regular businesses of attempting to collect debts owed (or alleged to be owed) to someone else, or whose principal business is purchasing and collecting on defaulted debts. For example, debt collection agencies and debt buyers are generally subject to the FDCPA.
What Does the FDCPA Require of Third-Party Debt Collectors?
The FDCPA is a lengthy statute imposing many obligations on debt collectors.
The FDCPA prohibits a wide range of deceptive practices. For example, debt collectors are prohibited from making false or misleading representations to the consumer, such as:
- Misrepresenting the legal status of the debt
- Falsely stating or implying that the debt collector is or is affiliated with a police agency, other governmental entity, or attorney
- Threatening action that the debt collector cannot take, or does not actually intend to take
- Issuing written communications designed to appear as if they are court documents or other official legal paperwork
The FDCPA also prohibits unfair practices, even if they are not necessarily deceptive. For example, the following misconduct is barred:
- Depositing or threatening to deposit a post-dated check ahead of schedule
- Collecting sums not provided for in the original agreement, such as a late fee or interest that was not contemplated in the consumer’s contract
- Taking or threatening to take property the debt collector has no present legal right to take
- Communicating with the alleged debtor by postcard
The FDCPA also contains many specific requirements regarding the disclosures that must be provided to consumers, the dispute and verification process, and other procedures. For example, the FDCPA requires that:
- Within five (5) days of initial contact, the debt collector must provide the consumer with a written notice that includes the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and additional notices regarding the consumer’s right to dispute the debt and obtain certain additional information
- The debt collector must disclose in the initial communication that the communication is an attempt to collect a debt, and that information collected will be used for that purpose, and must disclose in future communications that the communication is from a debt collector
- If the consumer makes such a request within the 30-day period, the debt collector must cease collection action until the request has been fulfilled as the statute requires
- With limited exceptions, the debt collector must cease communication with the consumer if the consumer refuses to pay the debt or requests in writing that the debt collector cease communications
In addition, the FDCPA explicitly prohibits abusive collection practices. For example, the following abusive collection tactics are unlawful under the FDCPA:
- Making collection calls to the consumer at unusual times or those known to be inconvenient, typically before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. local time
- Making direct contact with a consumer known to be represented by an attorney (with limited exceptions)
- Contacting the consumer at work, if the debt collector has reason to know that the employer forbids such contact
- Continuing contact with a consumer who has told the debt collector in writing to cease communications (with limited exceptions)
- Using threats of violence or other criminal means of harm
- Using profane or obscene language
- Calling repeatedly for the purpose of harassing the debtor
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides a direct remedy for consumers whose rights under the statute have been violated, including the right to pursue statutory damages of up to $1,000 and compensation for actual damages sustained as a result of the debt collector’s actions. The statute also provides for costs and mandatory attorneys’ fees, so a debt collector found to have violated the law will be responsible for paying the plaintiff’s lawyer and any associated costs of litigation.
New York FDCPA Attorneys
Litigating FDCPA claims on behalf of consumers is one of Schlanger Law Group’s core practice areas. Schlanger Law Group LLP regularly pursues FDCPA claims, and has achieved outstanding results, both on behalf of individuals and in consumer class action litigation. If you have been targeted by a dishonest or overly aggressive debt collector, we can help.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can put our extensive FDCPA experience to work for you.