There is no denying that consumer complaints regarding harassment by debt collectors
are on the rise. As in previous years, debt related complaints again topped the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) list in 2010. Nor is the harassment trivial. Indeed, in a recent debt collection case, one of the major collection agencies, West Asset Management, was slapped a penalty of $2.8 million for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
when attempting to collect debt from consumers. This is the largest civil penalty ever won by the FTC in a debt settlement case.
Per the FTC record of debt collection harassment complaints, a case (http://www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/0723006/110316wamcmpt.pdf
) was filed against West Asset Management Inc.
, which has 1500 employees in 13 states and one offshore location. This agency's debt collectors allegedly repeatedly and continuously violated the FDCPA. Specifically, their debt collectors called consumers many times every day, sometimes for accounts that did not belong to those consumers.
West Asset Management also disclosed the existence of consumers' debt to third parties and did not respond to consumers' written demands asking West Asset Management to stop calling them.
The FDCPA requires the third party debt collectors engaged by collection agencies or creditors to follow certain guidelines. The FDCPA guidelines
clearly state what a debt collector should not do. For example, debt collectors should not:
- Call you at inconvenient times
- Use improper/abusive language during the call
- Give misleading information such as a false identity, or a claim to be an attorney
- Disclose your debt to third parties unless given permission by you or your attorney
- Demand more money than the actual debt
- Call you after you have sent a written request , or made a verbal request, to stop
- Intimidate you with threats
- Threaten you with legal action that it does not intend to, or cannot legally, take
- Demand money you do not owe
- Tell lies about the debt
- Sue you in a state you do not reside in (unless the debt was incurred there)
Any violation of the FDCPA laws is punishable under law, through FTC enforcement or a civil lawsuit brought by the victim. The FTC even released a video for consumers facing debt collection harassment.
Consumers are encouraged to learn more about their rights under the FDCPA. Big debt collection agencies
like West Asset Management resort to illegal and unfair ways to squeeze money from consumers. If consumers lack knowledge of their rights and protection under the FDCPA, they can become victims of such tactics. The FDCPA is there to make sure that there is justice in debt collection.