You Can Sue if You Have Been a Victim of Unfair Debt Collection Practices
Here in the United States, consumers who are behind on their debt payments are well protected by Federal and state laws from harassing, abusive, and unfair debt collection practices. If you have been victimized by such practices, you can sue.
At the federal level, consumers are protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S. Code § 1692. The FDCPA was passed by Congress in 1977. The FDCPA acknowledges that creditors are allowed to make efforts to collect an unpaid debt, but the FDCPA gives consumers certain rights and bans certain types of debt collection practices.
In terms of consumer rights, the FDCPA gives consumers the right to demand proof that they owe the debts that are being collected and the right to challenge the accuracy of the debt amounts being asserted. See 15 U.S.C. §1692g. In terms of collection practices, the FDCPA prohibits the use of "any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt." 15 U.S.C. § 1692e. The FDCPA provides specific examples and court cases have added more.
For example, debt collectors:
- Must disclose the purpose of the contact to a consumer when they first call or make contact -- that is, the debt collector must disclose that they are a debt collector and that they are attempting to collect a debt
- Must notify the consumer about the consumer's rights to challenge the validity of the debt
- May not harass or annoy debtors or use obscenities or insults
- May not contact the debtor's family, friends or employer
- May not contact the debtor with excessive frequency
- May not threaten debtors with arrest
- May not threaten legal action unless legal action is actually being considered
- May not call or contact debtors before 8:00 in the morning or after 9:00 at night
- May not call the debtor at their place of employment
- May not call or contact a debtor if the debtor is represented by a debt relief attorney
- Must notify the consumer how the consumer can prevent future contact
- And more!
The FDCPA allows victims of debt collection abuse to bring lawsuits if they have been victimized. A victim can recover money damages, statutory damages and attorneys' fees for violations of the FDCPA. Punishments can be severe. For example, in 2015, JPMorgan Chase Bank paid $125 million to settle government investigations concerning the bank's unfair and improper efforts to collect credit card debt.
At the California state level, consumers are protected by the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("RFDCPA"), Cal. Civ. Code, § 1788 et seq. The RFDCPA is broader than the federal statute. It includes a broader definition of "consumer debts'' and covers more debt collectors than the federal statute. For example, the federal statute excludes from coverage the original creditor. However, the RFDCPA prohibits unfair and abusive debt collection practices by the original creditor, too. Like the federal statute, consumers can sue in court for violation of the RFDCPA. Victims can recover money damages and statutory penalties ranging from $100 to $1,000 per violation if the victim proves that the violations were willful and knowing.
Contact an Experienced Debt Relief and Debtor Rights Attorney
For more information, contact the Debtor's Rights attorneys at Guardian Litigation Group. We have the tools and experience you need if you have been the victim of unfair debt collection practices. Our Mission is to provide unparalleled legal services and support to financially distressed individuals. We can be reached via our contact page or by phone.