Adam Mack, JD
Hillary Stirling, research assistant
All too often, I encounter bankruptcy clients who have been victims of illegal behavior that they didn’t even realize was against the law. The “perpetrators” in these cases aren’t thugs on the street – they are debt collectors who use outlawed practices to try to coerce people into paying up. Thankfully, there are protections for consumers – and remedies under the law – when debt collectors get out of line. One of the more important acts of Congress in terms of consumer protection is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Protections for Consumers
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are prohibited from engaging in “abusive and deceptive” practices. Such practices would include (but are not limited to) threatening to have a debtor arrested, using profane language, harassing a debtor by calling them repeatedly or continuously, calling a debtor at work after being informed that the employer forbids it, and (most commonly in the bankruptcy cases I work with) contacting a debtor that is known to be represented by legal counsel (this may or may not be allowed depending on a number of factors). These and other practices are against the law and yet disreputable collection agencies often use them.
Remedies Under the Law
The Federal Trade Commission can enforce the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but more importantly, debtors who have been subjected to outlawed debt collection practices can file a private lawsuit. The best part is that the FDCPA is a “strict liability” law, meaning debtors don’t have to prove that they’ve been harmed. All they have to do is show that the debt collector broke the law by engaging in outlawed practices. If the debtor can do that, then the law states that the debt collector owes the debtor up to $1000, plus any reasonable attorneys’ fees.
The Most Important Part
Many people consider bankruptcy because they are being harassed by creditors. Often the debt collectors are acting within the law, but there are a significant number of them who are not. If you believe that you have been the victim of some of these abusive and deceptive practices, please contact us. We can help stop creditor harassment – sometimes without even filing bankruptcy.
These articles are for general informational use and do not constitute legal advice. Since laws change over time, it’s possible some articles are out of date and for that reason, we make no representation that the articles are fully accurate. For actual, up-to-date legal advice (including a free consultation), please contact us!