Before the late 70s, the debt collection industry was quite lawless. There weren’t restrictions, guidelines or rules as to how debt collectors could do their jobs. As you can imagine, things often got violent. Creditors would often hire henchmen to collect debts for them, resulting in abuse, threats, harassment and even contacting friends and family members (or anyone connected) to the person in debt.
Before the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), creditors, debt collectors and their henchmen could do virtually anything to apply pressure and recover money. They could threaten to put people in jail, call them repeatedly at any hour, blow up their mailbox with obscene threatening letters and even falsify information on their credit reports.
The FDCPA Made Life Easier for People in Debt
In 1978, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was put into effect. The FDCPA made life easier for thousands of Americans, and ensured they would never face abuse or harassment from creditors and debt collectors again. Not only were Americans in debt saved from abusive calls in the middle of the night and threats of jail time, but now they could access their comprehensive credit report information and dispute errors more easily.
The FDCPA also acts as an amendment to the Consumer Credit Protection Act, allowing for legal protection against abuse and harassment by debt collectors and their employees. After the FDCPA was put forth in 1978, thousands of Americans saw a better quality of life almost immediately.
Debt Collectors Were Forced to Change How They Work
With the FDCPA now in effect, debt collectors were met with strict rules and guidelines that they were forced to adapt. They could no longer resort to obscene harassment, abuse or threats in order to collect debt. Debt collectors were forced to abide by the strict rules of the FDCPA or face penalties and consequences.
At this point, debt collectors were forced to use normal and civil methods of collecting debt. Their behavior was closely monitored and the words they used watched carefully. The American public were informed of their rights, and knew when the FDCPA was violated. Of course, in the years after the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was put into effect, many debt collectors and their employees faced lawsuits for wrongful behavior.
A Brief Outline of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector is defined as:
“Any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another.”
Today, you can halt any harassment by debt collectors by simply writing a letter to them—or to a creditor—and telling them that you want them to stop contacting you. It’s as simple as that. At that point, they can only contact you to either tell you they won’t be contacting you anymore, or that they are filing a lawsuit against you.
The guidelines of the Federal Trade Commission clearly state that debt collectors cannot use annoying or harassing tactics to collect debt, including the following:
- Abuse or harass debtors (or third parties)
- Publish debtor’s names, or their debt information
- Use obscene language when contacting debtors
- Make calls repeatedly
- Make false statements or represent themselves as other individuals (such as attorneys or police)
- Skew the amount owed
- Give false information about debts owed
- Try collecting extra fees
Your Rights Under the FDCPA
While debt collectors and creditors do have the right to sue you for unpaid debts, you also have every right to file a lawsuit against them if they violated any rules of the FDCPA. However, be aware that you have one year to sue them for the violation, as there’s a statute of limitations with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
We highly suggest you utilize your rights if you ever feel that you are being harassed, abused or contacted inappropriately by a debt collector or their employees. The FDCPA clearly states what is and isn’t legal, and if you notice a violation on behalf of the debt collector, contact an attorney who specializes in consumer rights.
Southwest Recovery Services
We’re a credited, nationally-recognized debt collection agency with multiple offices throughout Texas and Oklahoma. We strictly adhere to the FDCPA when collecting debt, and maintain professionalism and empathy throughout our practice. We have offices in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Oklahoma City. To learn more about us or to collect a debt today, contact us.