Although not all debt collectors violate the law, federal and state law may protect you from overzealous and harassing debt collectors.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), protects consumers against unsolicited telemarketing calls, prerecorded messages, text messages, automated dialers and faxes.
Businesses violating TCPA violations can be forced to compensate a person or entity either for actual damages for each TCPA violation or $500 (whichever sum is greater). A court could, however, award treble damages (three times the amount of actual damages) if a violator is found to have to have “willingly or knowingly” violated TCPA regulations.
There are some exceptions to the TCPA that allow for unsolicited calls under certain circumstances. For instance, calls made for debt collection purposes are not considered TCPA violations if they are made by live agents.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act enumerates certain actions that debt collectors hired by third-party collection agencies can and cannot do to debtors. Unfortunately, certain debt collectors ignore these guidelines and engage in unlawful, abusive, deceptive and unfair debt collection practices. The FDCPA allows you to seek monetary damages in the event you are harassed by a debt collector. Federal law mandates that, if successful, you are entitled to collect up to $1,000 in a lawsuit for each violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Furthermore, if successful, the debt collector may be responsible for to paying your costs and attorney’s fees.
Here are some examples of FDCPA violations:
- Calling your cell phone without permission.
- Discussing your debt with family members, Friends or employers.
- Threatening arrest or criminal charges.
- Using lies, profanity or false threats to collect a debt.
- Excessive phone calls or calling consumers before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. or any other time the collectors know is not convenient.
- Attempting to collect a debt a consumer does not owe or has been discharged in bankruptcy.
Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA)
In many respects the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) is similar to the FDCPA. However, there are many distinguishing characteristics. For one, Florida’s act is far broader in its prohibitions than it federal counterpart. The most obvious one is that the federal act protects consumers from acts of “debt collectors” while the Florida Act is applicable to all “persons”. In addition, the FCCPA has a two-year statute of limitations while its federal counterpart has one-year statute of limitations. In addition, the statute has a very strict registration requirement for “collection agencies” which, if violated can result in criminal fines and penalties for the entities collecting debts in Florida.
Furthermore, the FCCPA provides for civil remedies consisting of actual damages and statutory damages not exceeding $1,000 in addition to court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. Lastly, the FCCPA also requires any assignee of a debt to provide written notice to a consumer before commencing any action to collect the debt.
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