Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (FDCPA)
The FDCPA is the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, enacted at Title 15 of the United States Code, Sections 1692. It was passed in 1977 to protect consumers from abusive debt-collection practices. Congress determined that such practices “contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy.” It only protects people during the course of collection of consumer debts (debts for family or household purposes), but not debts that were incurred for business purposes.
The FDCPA covers a wide range of conduct, including conduct that is unfair, deceptive, or harassing.
The FDCPA also creates a procedure for you to request what is called “validation” of a debt. When a debt collector begins collecting on an account, within five days of the first communication, they must sent a notice with the amount owed, the creditor’s name, and the right to request validation of the debt.
Within 30 days of receiving this notice, you have the right to request that the debt collector provide “validation.” Validation usually includes the name and address of the original creditor, account statements, and other documentation of the debt.
Until the debt collector provides validation, they are prohibited from communicating with you. The only exception is that the collector is permitted to file a lawsuit before providing validation.
There are additional rules regulating debt collectors:
- If you have a lawyer, a debt collector may not contact you directly.
- Debt collectors cannot call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
- Debt collectors cannot tell third parties about the debt. They may, however, contact third parties to try to locate you, so long as they don’t discuss the account.
- Debt collectors cannot sue you anywhere except where you currently live or where you opened the account.
- If you send a letter telling the debt collector to stop contacting you, they must do so.
If a debt collector violates any section of the FDCPA, they are liable for $1,000 in statutory damages. The collector will also be liable for any other damages they cause, such as embarrassment, mental anguish, or medical problems.
Lawsuits under the FDCPA are usually heard in Massachusetts Federal Court, which has jurisdiction over cases under federal law.