People often ask us whether a debt collector’s conduct is illegal. Perhaps the debt collector calls you countless times a day, or begins contacting your spouse or family members at work. These debt collection practices often cause anxiety or even depression. However, debtors need to know that they have rights in these situations.
Generally speaking, all debt collectors must comply with the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act (FDCPA). Under the FDCPA, the following rules apply:
The debt collector cannot attempt to communicate with a consumer at any unusual time or place. This generally means that the debt collector can only call between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm.
If the debt collector knows that the consumer has obtained an attorney with respect to the debt which the collector is seeking, the collector must divert all communications to the attorney and cease all communications with the consumer.
The debt collector may not contact the consumer at her place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication.
Generally speaking, the debt collector may not engage in communications regarding the collection of a debt with any person other than the consumer.
Upon written notice from the consumer that consumer refuses to pay the debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease communications, the debt collector must cease all further communication with the consumer (except for a couple minor exceptions).
A debt collector is prohibited from engaging in any conduct the natural consequences of which is to harass, oppress, or to abuse.
A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation in connection with the collection of the debt.
Lastly, a debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means of collection.
It should be further noted that, although a debt collector is prohibited from communicating with third parties, the term “consumer" is defined as the debtor, her parents if she is a minor, her spouse if she is married, her guardian, executor, and administrator.
In practice, whether a debt collector’s actions violate the FDCPA is always a complicated and fact intensive analysis. It is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible to ensure that all your rights remain protected.