If you've ever received harassing debt collections call at work, you've likely wondering about the topic: consumer rights and debt collection agencies. Debtors are often unaware of their consumer rights and put up with unethical and abusive collection calls. However, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) has specific guidelines in place to protect your consumer rights. If debt collectors violate FDCPA guidelines, you, the debtor, can turn into the plaintiff if the case ever goes to court. It's important to know your consumer rights when dealing with debt collection agencies in order to protect yourself.
Debt validation - A debt collector cannot expect to receive money from you simply because he contacts you. You have the right to request validation of the debt. According to the FDCPA, the debt collector should send you a validation notice within five days after the initial contact. Such notice should include the account balance and the original creditor's name. The notice should provide instructions for you to follow if you dispute the debt or a portion of the debt.
Disputed debt - If you send a letter to the collection agency requesting verification of the debt, to dispute the debt or to dispute a portion of the debt, the debt collector must cease all contact. However, if the collector verifies the debt with a copy of a bill, for instance, he may initiate contact once again. The law specifies that you must send your dispute letter within 30 days after you receive the validation notice.
Debt collection calls - Although debt collection agencies have the right to contact you in an attempt to collect a client's debt, they must observe FDCPA guidelines regarding calls. For instance, debt collectors can only contact you between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. A debt collector must obtain your permission to contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. In addition, a debt collector may not contact you at your place of employment if you inform him or her that you cannot receive calls at work. Your request may be in oral form or in writing.
The law also protects your consumer rights associated with unwanted debt collection calls at home. You can send a written request to the debt collector asking him to cease all phone contact, even if the debt is legitimately yours. You will still owe the debt, and collection agencies can even file a lawsuit against you. However, the harassing daily calls should stop once the collector receives your written notice. After receiving your request, collection agencies may only contact you to notify you of a specific action against you, like seeking a court order against you.
Collection agencies and third-party contacts - Debt collectors may not discuss your debt with a third party, except your spouse or your attorney. The collector may contact your employer only to verify employment. Debt collectors may only contact third parties, like a relative, to obtain your contact information, address and place of employment but may not discuss your case. The law prohibits collectors from contacting third parties, such as relatives and employers multiple times. If you have retained an attorney, all contact should be through your attorney.
Garnishments - Collection agencies cannot debit your bank account or garnish your wages without a court order. Even with a court order, benefits such as, student assistance, veteran's benefits and social security benefits are exempt. If a debt collector threatens to garnish your wages, he's violating your consumer rights.
Harassment and abusive speech - Threats are illegal. If a debt collector threatens to garnish your wages or freeze your bank account, he's acting unlawfully. In addition, collectors may not use abusive or profane speech.
In conclusion, the fact that you're a debtor does not mean that you don't have rights. Creditors have a right to collect debts owed to them but must observe FDCPA guidelines, which protect your consumer rights. Learning what your consumer rights are will help you identify unethical debt collectors and put an end or harassing , unethical debt collection calls.
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