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Not All Debt Collection Activity is Illegal

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2013 | Consumer Protection

Often times consumers complain about collection agencies and their collection efforts.  They complain that the collectors are abusive and harassing, and, if nothing else, overly persistent in making phone calls.  It is no secret that collectors use various tactics to coerce consumers in making payment on their debts. It is important to know that some of these practices are illegal and cross the line established by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and some activities, plain and simple are NOT.  While the FDCPA clearly prohibits certain collection tactics, there are numerous activities not considered illegal despite the fact you may feel otherwise.

Under the FDCPA, you have a right to request that the collector cease all verbal communication with you and the collector must obey your wishes.  However, despite your request, not every communication thereafter is considered illegal.  A collector can contact you to inform you it has ended its collection efforts or to inform you it intends to take legal action against you. Also, the collector can call you to inform you of a specific remedy the creditor intends to avail itself of, as long as the creditor does intend to avail itself of those remedies.

The FDCPA prohibits collectors from making empty threats. What this means it that a collector cannot threaten to sue you or garnish your wages and/or bank accounts if they do NOT intend to take this action or legally cannot take such action against you.  A collector can however, make these statements in an effort to collect your debt if they are in fact a statement of their true intentions.  While such threats are intimidating and may even seem like harassment, these comments do not cross the line of illegal collection tactics when they are sincere.  A collector may NOT however, threaten to arrest you or garnish your wages or bank account without a judgment against you first.

It is NOT a violation of the FDCPA to contact a third party such as a friend, family member, or co-worker.  In a post last week, I blogged about third party contact and how collectors use this legal collection practice to get debtors to pay off their debts.  It is a common practice for collectors to contact your friends, family and/or neighbors and this conduct, when done within the confines of the FDCPA is NOT in violation of the statute.  A collector may communicate with a third party to obtain information about your whereabouts and this conduct is NOT in violation of the statute.  However, a collector cannot communicate with the third party on more than one occasion, unless it believes there is new or additional information regarding the debtor.  Furthermore, the collector cannot disclose any information regarding you or your debt when communicating with the third party or the conduct is in violation of the FDCPA.

Debt collectors calling you at multiple numbers a few times in a day is also NOT considered a violation, especially if the collector has never spoken with you directly.  While section 1692 d(5)  of the FDCPA states that multiple calls made to the consumer with the intent to annoy or harass the consumer is a violation of the statute, more and more courts are holding that mere volume of calls is not sufficient to amount to a violation of the Act.  You must be able to show some intent to harass, in other words, the natural consequence of the calls is to harass you and coerce you into payment.

If you feel your rights have been violated under the FDCPA, contact SmithMarco P.C. for a free case review.