The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA): An Overview
In order to deter collection agencies from engaging in abusive collection practices in the United States the Federal Government has instituted several laws. Arguably the most notable of these laws is The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) of 1978 which was established in order to help protect those who are delinquent on their debts from abuse. This article provides a brief outline of the key protections debtors are afforded under the FDCPA, however an overview of other important legal protections enjoyed by debtors in the United States can be found on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
Prohibited Practices Under the FDCPA
After several studies revealed that delinquent debtors in the United States are often faced with deceptive, abusive, and unfair debt collection practices by collection agencies lawmakers decided to include a list of ethical guidelines in the FDCPA for the collection of consumer debt and prohibit certain practices. Some of the key practices that are prohibited under The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act include, but are not limited to:
- Using any deceptive, false, or misleading means to collect a debt,
- Harassing or annoying debtors,
- Threatening debtors with arrest,
- Directly contacting a debtor known to be represented by counsel,
- Threatening legal action when litigation is not actually being contemplated, and/or
- Contacting a debtor before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
Penalties Available Under the FDCPA
Debt collectors who violate a provision of The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act can face penalties via an administrative enforcement proceeding or a civil lawsuit brought by a private debtor. For example, code section 15 U.S.C. § 1692k notes that any debt collector who violates a provision of the FDCPA and is found liable in civil court can be forced to pay the following in damages:
- Any actual damage sustained by the plaintiff debtor,
- In the case of an action filed by an individual, additional damages up to $1,000, and/or
- The plaintiff’s court costs, plus reasonable attorney’s fees.
A Common Defense to FDCPA Civil Liability Claims
It is important to note that debt collectors commonly defend themselves from FDCPA civil liability claims by arguing that they lacked the intent required to be held liable. This is because debt collectors who are able to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that (1) their violation was not intentional and instead resulted from a bona fide error and (2) that they had procedures in place reasonably adapted to avoid such an error, may not be held liable under the FDCPA.
Need Legal Advice? Contact a Local Debt Relief Attorney
Are you drowning in debt? Do you feel overwhelmed and stressed about your financial situation? If so, the Southeast Iowa debt relief attorneys of the Noyes Law Office P.C. are here to help. Our experienced lawyers frequently help clients file for bankruptcy but they also understand that bankruptcy is not always the right move to make and that there are often other viable debt relief options available to our clients. To discuss your legal options with one of our debt relief lawyers contact our Fairfield office at (641) 472-3236 and schedule a free no obligation consultation. Get back on the road to financial freedom today!