Just about everyone has heard of, if not experienced, a horror story or two about an obnoxious bill collector who calls repeatedly at one's home or place of work on a debt they may, or may not owe, even after being told by a consumer not to call any more. Most people have a vague idea that there are laws protecting them from these kinds of abuses, but few know just what they are, or how they can seek and obtain a redress of their grievances when violations occur.
The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA
, as it is known, is the national standard under which debt collectors, collection agents, their employers, collection agencies
, are regulated. The Act establishes a set of guidelines governing the conduct of those persons and entities employed in efforts to collect past due consumer debt which include who can be contacted (and who cannot), the times of day one can be contacted, where contacts can be made, the content of those communications, the frequency of those contacts, the right to demand proof of the debt, or that no further telephonic communications about the debt be made.
In ever increasing numbers all over the United States, disgruntled consumers are turning to attorneys who are using the FDCPA and the Courts as their shield and sword in the never ending battle against unscrupulous debt collectors
. Almost 900 lawsuits were filed against FDCPA violators in Federal Courts last May, an increase of over 12% compared to the previous month, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, who also report that current filings represent a threefold increase over a similar period five years ago. These figures seem to represent, not just an added number of those in debt due to the economic downturn, but also an increased awareness among consumers abused by bill collectors that they have rights and remedies available to stop the abuse and punish the abusers.
If you are a consumer who feels you have been mistreated by a collection agent or agency, you should first arm yourself with information by reading the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and then comparing its requirements with the conduct of the bill collector or collection agency with whom you are dealing. After determining that violations have or are being made, one must take care to document the violations as best they can, in order to establish evidence for use in potential litigation. Note the date, times, identities, and location of the source of obnoxious contacts. Also, save phone records and voicemails.