Federal law has ways of protecting consumers from dealing with telephone calls at work from creditors and debt collectors. This right to not receive debt collection calls at work can be exercised in two different ways, depending on who is calling the consumer.
When a consumer has failed to make payments on their debt, and that debt goes into default, a creditor will either attempt to collect on the debt in-house or hire an outside agency. These third parties are known as “debt collectors” and are governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are limited in the way they can communicate with consumers and others (including employers) about the consumer’s debt. While it is not per se illegal for debt collectors to call consumers at work, the FDCPA, under 15 U.S.C. Section 1692c(a)(3), prohibits calls for the purpose of debt collection at a consumer’s place of work if the debt collector “has reason to know” that the employer would forbid such calls.
A debt collector would have “reason to know” once the consumer simply tells the debt collector to stop calling him or her at work. There is no need to ask the debt collector in writing. However a consumer should keep a written record in case any future problems arise.
If the debt collector continues to contact the consumer at work despite being told not to do so, the consumer can sue in state or federal court for violation of the FDCPA. The consumer may receive statutory damages of up to $1,000 per action, as well as actual damages, attorney’s fees, and court costs.
Another group of creditors covered by the FDCPA are “debt buyers.” These creditors buy old delinquent credit accounts and then attempt to collect on them in-house. Since the debt buyer did not extend the loan or credit initially, but bought the credit from another creditor, they are covered by the FDCPA and cannot contact consumers at work if they have “reason to know” that the consumer’s employer forbids the calls.
However, since creditors are not considered to be “debt collectors” the FDCPA does not stop the creditors themselves from contacting consumers at work. Creditors may be in violation of another law when they contact a consumer at work.
Under the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA), creditors are prohibited from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. While the FTCA does not specifically prohibit telephone calls made to a consumer’s workplace to attempt to collect on a debt, the FTCA does consider these collection calls made to an employer that prohibits such calls to be an “unfair or deceptive act or practice.”
As with debt collectors, a creditor has “reason to know” that the employer forbids such calls once the consumer tells them to stop calling at their place of work. However, it is a good idea to inform the creditor in writing, stating that collection calls are not permitted at the consumer’s workplace.
If the creditor continues to call the consumer at their workplace, the consumer does not have a right to sue the creditor. Instead the consumer files a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC then conducts an investigation and if it is appropriate, takes action against the creditor.
Our experienced attorneys here at Krohn and Moss Consumer Law Center have also provided many helpful resources regarding the TCPA and the FDCPA and how telephone debt collectors should act. We have been successfully representing those abused and taken advantage of by debt collectors for years, and have a long list of successful stories to share with you. We offer a FREE CASE REVIEW for you to assess whether we can assist you with your matter. Please do not hesitate to contact us toll free at 1-800-875-3666 or visit our website at http://www.krohnandmoss.com/.