How the FDCPA protects consumers against debt collectors

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that prohibits certain conduct by debt collectors. Its important to understand that the FDCPA only applies to communications with “debt collectors” (ie. not the original creditor collecting its own debt) and to “consumer debts” (ie. not business debts). Under the FDCPA, a debt collector is forbidden from doing any of the following:

  • Communicate with you at inconvenient times or places. Inconvenient times are generally considered to before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m., local time where the consumer is located
  • Contact you directly if the debt collector knows you are represented by an attorney
  • Communicate with you at work if you tell the debt collector not to call you there, or if the debt collector knows that you cannot receive calls at work
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  • Contact third parties and inform them you owe a debt
  • Communicate with you after you’ve requested that the debt collector stop calling you
  • Engage in conduct that is harassing, oppressive, or abusive to you
  • Threaten you with violence or other criminal behavior
  • Use obscene, profane, or abusive language
  • Use false, deceptive, or misleading representations or collection methods
  • Threaten to take legal action if there is no intention or authority to do so
  • Falsely imply an affiliation with a government
  • Falsely represent the amount, character, or legal status of a debt
  • Falsely imply that the debt collector is an attorney
  • Imply that non-payment will result in arrest or imprisonment
  • Collect any amount that is not legally owing

This is not an exhaustive list, and there may be exceptions to some of the general prohibitions.

(photo: g-na)