I’m often asked whether a consumer can sue a debt collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) if they owe the underlying debt. The answer is a resounding YES! The main purpose of the FDCPA is to protect all consumers against debt collection abuses, whether they owe the underlying debt or not. In fact, most people who sue debt collectors under the FDCPA owe the debt.
The FDCPA prohibits abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices. Some of the more common debt collection practices prohibited by the FDCPA are:
- informing third parties that you owe a debt;
- contacting you at inconvenient times or contacting you at work after you’ve told the debt collector not to;
- threatening you with violence;
- using abusive or profane language;
- threatening to take legal action when the debt collector has no intent to do so;
- falsely implying that you committed a crime by not paying the debt.
If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, you have the right to sue the debt collector and recover damages. You are entitled to $1,000 in statutory damages and compensation for actual damages, such as emotional distress. And if your case is successful, the debt collector must pay your attorney fees. Because of this, most consumer lawyers will accept a FDCPA case on a contingency fee arrangement. This usually means you will not have to pay any attorney fees, unless your case is successful.