Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
There are many laws in place to protect American consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which was enacted in September 1977 and went into effect in 1978. The FDCPA was created to prevent deceptive and abusive tactics by debt collectors. These types of collection practices contributed to a number of other problems, including personal bankruptcies, loss of jobs, invasions of privacy, and even marital instability. Because existing laws provided inadequate consumer protection, Congress passed the FDCPA, a federal law to protect consumers. In addition to the federal law, Fair debt collection practice laws also exist at the state level including California.
California Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The California FDCPA, Sections 1788-1788.3 of the CA Civil Code, states that, "unfair or deceptive collection practices undermine the public confidence which is essential to the continued functioning of the banking and credit system and sound extensions of credit to consumers." This being said, the Act prohibits debt collectors "from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the collection of consumer debts...".
According to § 802 of the FDCPA, the purpose of the federal Act is "to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors and to promote consistent State action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses." However, despite the passing of the Act into law, many debt collectors still use unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices to collect debts from consumers.
Although unfair debt collection practices still occur, the FDCPA provides consumers with a basis for redressing injuries inflicted by debt collectors. If a consumer suspects that a debt collector has violated state and/or federal law, he or she can report the debt collector to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), their state Attorney General, and, depending on the situation, file a civil lawsuit for damages and attorney's fees or contact local law enforcement. According to § 806 through § 808 of the FDCPA, it is illegal for debt collectors to do any of the following: :
- Harass, abuse, or oppress a consumer or any third party they contact by using threats of harm or violence, publishing names of debtors, using profane or obscene language, or repeatedly or consistently calling the consumer (especially at inconvenient hours);
- Giving false statements, such as claiming they are someone other than a debt collector, falsely claiming that the consumer has committed a crime, lying about the amount owed, or making false claims about whether documents are legal forms;
- Tell the consumer that unless their debt is paid, he or she will be arrested, that they will garnish, seize, attach, or sell his or her wages or property when they are not legally permitted to do so, or that they will take legal action when they do not intend to follow through or it would be illegal to do so;
- Give false credit information about you to anyone;
- Send documents that look official, but aren't;
- Use a false company name; or
- Engage in unfair collection practices, such as trying to collect fees, interest, or other charges on top of the debt (unless law or a contract allow it), deposit a post-dated check early, or contact the consumer by postcard.
When debt collectors ignore the FDCPA, consumers fall victim to illegal, unfair and abusive debt collection tactics. Debt collectors may even attempt to sue the consumer in their attempt to collect the fraudulent debt. Fortunately, California law protects consumers from unlawful tactics. Howard D. Silver is a Ventura fair debt collection attorney and is committed to protecting consumers from unlawful debt collection practices. If you are being harassed, deceived, or otherwise abused by a debt collector or creditor, call Mr. Silver today for a free consultation about your case at (855) 341-2611.