Even though the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was put into place in order to protect consumers from bill collectors who would bend the law, many don’t understand exactly what their rights are. Here are some of the most common questions about collection agency laws, and the answers.
* Does the FDCPA apply to only consumer debt, or business debt also? The FDCPA was put into place for consumer debt, and those owing business debt don’t have the same rights as consumers do.
* Are bill collectors allowed to call me and day and night? No. Collection agency laws specify when debt collectors are allowed to call you. They aren’t allowed to call before 8 am or after 9 pm in your time zone. The law isn’t specific as to how many times a debt collector can call you, but it’s understood that they aren’t allowed to use the phone in an attempt to harass you into paying your debt.
* Can a bill collector have me arrested? Only a court of law can issue a warrant for arrest, not a debt collector. If a debt collector threatens to “dispatch” the police department or have you thrown in jail, they are acting against collection agency laws.
* Can a collection agency sue me? Yes, in some instances, a collection agency has a right to file a lawsuit against you. But unless they actually plan to file suit, or are legally allowed to do so, they can’t make the threat. For instance, if your debt is time-barred, they no longer have the ability to sue you.
* Can a bill collector harass me about an old debt? Each state has a statute of limitations regarding various types of debt. The statute of limitations typically ranges from 3 to 10 years. Once a debt has reached that stage, a debt collector is still allowed to pursue payment, but is no longer able to take a consumer to court for payment.
* Can a debt collector call my family or boss about my debt? No. The FDCPA is very specific about third party contacts. A debt collector can call a third party once in an attempt to contact you, but isn’t allowed to talk to them about your debt. They aren’t allowed to call again unless the person invites them to. Collection agency laws grant you the right to privacy when it comes to your personal finances.
* Can I make the debt collector stop calling me? Yes. The FDCPA gives you the right to send a cease and desist letter to the collection agency asking it to stop contacting you by phone, or even by mail if you don’t want to hear from them at all. This won’t stop their collection efforts, but it will give you peace from constant collection attempts.
Knowing your rights under the FDCPA can make all the difference in the world when it comes to debt collectors. If you don’t know yours, consider reading the entire bill before your next interaction with a debt collector. If they know that you understand collection agency laws, they’ll be less likely to break them.