In the United States a variety of laws at both the federal and state levels regulate consumer affairs. Among them are the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Federal consumer protection laws are mainly enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) was enacted to prevent debt collector harassment. The FDCPA prohibits certain types of debt collector conduct when attempting to collect consumer debts. Business debts are not included, but student loans, medical debt, credit card debt, and personal loans are all covered. The FDCPA applies to debt collectors, debt buyers, and law firms collecting upon a debt that did not originate with them. The FDCPA does not apply to original creditors such as Citibank, Bank of America, Discover, Capital One, etc. Some violations of the FDCPA are:
- Hours for phone contact: contacting consumers by telephone before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. local time.
- At any unusual time: holidays have been found to be inconvenient, so send any calls made on holidays to the Violation Team.
- Communicating with consumers at their place of employment after having been advised that this is unacceptable or prohibited by the employer.
- Failure to cease communication upon request: communicating with consumers in any way (other than litigation) after receiving written notice that said consumer wishes no further communication or refuses to pay the alleged debt.
- Contacting a consumer known to be represented by an attorney.
- Communicating with the consumer or attempting to collect a debt if there has been a documentation or validation request, and they have not yet sent the requested debt validation.
- Communication with third parties: revealing or discussing the nature of debts with third parties (other than the consumer’s spouse or attorney)
- Causing a telephone to ring continuously: with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was passed into law by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1991 to regulate the use of automated dialing equipment and prerecorded messages. In 2003, the FCC amended its rules under the TCPA to implement the National Do Not Call list.
The TCPA only applies to calls or texts made on cell phones using an automated dialer. What is an automated dialer? An automated dialer is a computer program that dials numbers on its own, or that has the capability of storing numbers. If the debt collector or creditor does not manually dial 10 numbers when calling a consumer, it is an automated dialer.
The TCPA applies to both original creditors and debt collectors. Since we cannot go after original creditors on FDCPA violations, the TCPA is the only way to go after creditors. Calls must be made between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. or they are violations of the TCPA.
- TCPA violations carry the potential of $500 to $1,500 per violation.
- TCPA violations are good for four years from the date of the call.
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
The Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including consumer credit information. It requires that the credit reporting agencies maintain accurate and complete information, investigate and re-investigate any claim by a consumer that information is not accurate.
Federal law prohibits a creditor or debt collector from reporting that a particular debt is delinquent without reporting that the account is being disputed. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that the creditors, debt collectors, and credit reporting agencies report accurate and complete information about you and your credit worthiness.