In 1977, Congress passed an important law that protects consumers from abusive debt collection practices by creditors. The law is known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Although the law was passed several decades ago, it is particularly important now because the economy is performing poorly and many people are having a hard time making ends meet. Now is a good time to review the protections provided by the FDCPA to make sure that you understand your rights and that your creditors treat you fairly.
What Protections Does the FDCPA Provide?
The FDCPA provides a variety of important restrictions on creditors and, in doing so, protects consumers. First, the FDCPA restricts the manner in which creditors are allowed to communicate with you about your debt. In most cases, for example, they cannot call you at any unusual or inconvenient time, and collection calls must occur between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Generally, creditors also cannot communicate with you if they know you are represented by an attorney, or if you have stated in writing that you refuse to pay the debt or wish for the creditor to stop contacting you. The FDCPA also generally prohibits creditors from contacting your friends and family members in connection with attempts to collect on your debts.
A second important protection is that the FDCPA prohibits creditors from harassing you or engaging in abusive debt-collection practices. Such practices include threatening violence or criminal means to harm you, your reputation or property; using obscene language; publishing your name in lists of consumers who are behind on their payments; making annoying, abusive or harassing phone calls; or failing to disclose their identity when they call.
Third, the FDCPA prohibits creditors from making false or misleading statements to you as they attempt to collect on a debt. They must, for example, accurately represent the amount of the debt in their communications, and cannot collect more than legally authorized.
Fourth, the FDCPA requires creditors to give you fair notice of the amount and nature of your debt. Within five days of first communicating with you regarding your debt, the creditor must send you notice of the amount owed, the creditor's name, and a statement that the debt will be assumed valid unless contested within thirty days of receipt of the notice, among other matters. If you timely contest the debt after receiving the notice, the creditor must cease collection efforts until obtaining a verification of the debt.
What to do When FDCPA Protections Aren't Enough
The FDCPA provides important protections for consumers, but it is important to understand that the FDCPA does not resolve underlying financial problems. If you are receiving calls from creditors, it is likely that you are suffering financially and unable to make ends meet. In such circumstances, bankruptcy may be an appropriate option. The federal bankruptcy laws help consumers to manage their debts and obtain a fresh start financially by filing for protection under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
If you think that bankruptcy might be an appropriate option, contact the Utah Bankruptcy Hotline. The Utah Bankruptcy Hotline maintains a network of experienced Utah bankruptcy lawyers who provide debt relief and bankruptcy counsel to consumers throughout Northern Utah. Call us at 801-896-3328 or visit us online at http://www.utahbankruptcyhotline.org/.