The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or better known as, FDCPA, is a federal law enacted to defend the consumers against the illicit practices of creditors. Many states have a separate debt collection law in place - a variant of the federal one. Some of these variants of the FDCPA are often regarded to provide better consumer protection in comparison to the parent one.
But, then are you aware whether you’ve got a lawsuit filed against a debt collector for harassing you unduly?
If not, then there four rules to a debt collection case that needs a mention here.
Debt collection case - What do you require?
Financial experts and attorneys say that in order to register a complaint of FDCPA violation against a certain debt buyer, i.e., a debt collector, you’ve got to fulfill the following four legal requirements:
- You must be a consumer.
- Your debt should be a consumer one. Simply put, your financial obligations have to be your own - personal, or they could be your family’s or attached to your own household. In this case, any business debt whatsoever doesn’t qualify.
- Debt collectors must have contacted you for payments.
- Debt collectors must have violated either the FDCPA or California’s Rosenthal statute (a variant of FDCPA enacted in California) or any other statutes.
As per the debt experts, if your case fulfills all the above four requirements, then it is for sure that your debt collectors have violated the said the statutes. The fact is, federal law, mandates debt collectors to treat their consumers with dignity, fairness and respect.
What can you sue for?
Primarily, there are lots of actions that can be considered an alleged violation of the statutes by the debt collectors. This could be the FDCPA or the state statutes.
Basically, FDCPA falls under the strict liability statute. This implies that if debt collectors violate the Act, they will be held liable for the same. The FDCPA stipulates a fine of $1000 penalty on the rogue debt collectors on grounds of its violations, including attorney’s fees. As a result, a lot of debt collectors had to shell out penalties amounting to $100,000 or more.
Speaking about the state statutes, you can use what the legal eagles call it as “torts”. The term torts mean civil causes of action. This could an intentional infliction of emotional stress or using profane language against you in public or deliberate defamation to extract money from you, leading to emotional distress.
A lot of emotion plays a role in this type of collection cases and they are quite rampant nowadays, especially telephonic harassment.
Apart from that, you could also suffer due to ignorant or negligent emotional distress at the hands of the unscrupulous debt collectors. Even if your case isn’t quite as severe as the others, that too can be considered as a negligent way of collecting debt payments. Moreover, debt collectors at times file false charges that they can’t prove in the court of law. In such situations, the FDCPA would protect you from being sued because of abusive or manipulative process employed by the debt collectors.
When you face with these collection challenges, then either you could opt for invasion or privacy or file a defamation lawsuit (or libel) against the perpetrators.
Misleading language on debt collection letters
As soon as you get a debt collection letter, make sure to reply that at the earliest. Any delay in responding to collection letters may turn the matter worse for you since debt collectors get agitated and anxious with each passing day. Never ignore collection letters or calls.
As far as collection letters are concerned, it is very important to run a check of what has been written on it before replying. A proper collection letter should provide you with all the essential information related to your debt. For instance, it should mention the name of the original creditor, how much you owe, what are the means to make the repayments or to dispute any discrepancy.
Still, at times, debt collection letters contain wrong, misleading or false information. These kinds of information are mainly used to create confusion and threaten debtors. But the good news is that a court, in the recent past, has pronounced a judgment where a debtor can sue a debt collector for such malpractices.