There is often a great deal of confusion about what rights you have as a consumer when it comes to requesting validation from a debt collector. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) explicitly provides consumers with this right and defines in the statute the duties collectors have prior to continuing their collection efforts.
As a general rule, a collector is allowed to rely on a creditor’s representation when it comes to collecting debts. In other words, if a creditor says a debtor owes a debt, the collector may go after the debtor without first ensuring its validity. The FDCPA, however, provides a method for consumers who would like a collection agency to look into the collector’s information concerning the debt with the creditor. The FDCPA requires debt collectors, within five days of the initial communication, to provide the consumer with a letter explaining the consumer’s right to request validation from the collection agency. So while the collector may not have a duty to validate the debt prior to attempting to collect, the FDCPA requires collectors to put you on notice of your right to request it. The FDCPA does put a time limit on this request as it must be made within thirty days of receipt of the initial collection letter. Once a debtor notifies the collector that he or she requests validation, the collector’s duty changes and it can no longer rely on the creditor’s blanket representation. The collector must obtain validation of the debt and report back to the consumer with the necessary information.
Upon receipt of the request for validation, the collector must consider the debt as “disputed” and must cease all collection efforts until it provides the debtor with the requested information. The FDCPA specifically states that if a debt is disputed, “the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt, or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.” 15 U.S.C. §1692g(b). The collector essentially comes to a decision when in receipt of a timely request for validation. The collector can either obtain that validation and provide it to the consumer which would allow the collector to continue its collection. Or, the collector must discontinue its collection efforts. There is no time limit on the collector to provide this validation. The collector can take several months if it needs, as long as it does not attempt collection in the meantime. The purpose of this section of the FDCPA is to protect consumers from collectors who either mistakenly or knowingly attempt to collect debts from the wrong consumer or that are not actually owed.