When you owe money to a creditor and it does not get paid for whatever reason, it goes to a debt collection agency. The incentive to aggressively pursue profit can lead debt collection agencies to engage in unlawful behavior to get the debt repaid.
How The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Protects You?
Due to the aggressive behavior that can be displayed from debt collection agencies, a group of protections was created. This is known as the FDCPA, or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FDCPA protects consumers against several forms of harassment and illegal behaviors from debt collectors.
What Are The Most Common Violations Of The FDCPA?
Even with the rules and regulations of the FDCPA, violations still occur. Debt collection agencies may forego the rules in place in pursuit of getting your debt paid back.
Some examples of common violations of the FDCPA are:
- Improper communication (The collection agency calls you much earlier/later than allowed, continues to contact you after you have informed them you have a lawyer, etc.)
- Harassment or abuse (Using threatening language, profanity, repeatedly calling with the intention to harass, annoy, or abuse you, etc.)
- False representation (Lying about who they are, why they’re calling, or the details of your debt)
- Unfair practices (Threatening to repossess property without the right or intent to do so, calling collect to make your incur unnecessary charges, etc.)
- Improper payment processes (Failing to apply a payment, applying a payment to disputed debt, etc.)
- Improper and/or incomplete notices (Failing to notify you of your rights, hiding the creditors name, failing to inform you of your 30 day period to dispute debt, etc.)
Enduring these behaviors from debt collection agencies is unpleasant. It may also mean you have a case against them in court. People who sue debt collectors typically endure one or more violations from an agency.
How To Sue Debt Collection Agencies?
If you are being harassed by a debt collector, you may choose to pursue legal action. If you are being harassed or treated unfairly by a debt collection agency, start by gathering proof.
You can do the following to obtain proof of unlawful practices from a debt collector:
- Record phone calls with the debt collector,
- Save voicemails from the debt collector,
- Save all texts and emails from the debt collector, and
- Save all mail received from the debt collector.
If you plan on taking a debt collection agency to court, you’ll need proof. This is because most debt collection agencies have experience with litigation and have a robust legal strategy.
What Defenses Could A Debt Collector Raise In A Lawsuit?
Debt collection agencies are well funded and also well versed in experiencing litigation. Due to that, they have many strategies to defend themselves.
Some common strategies they may use as a defense are:
- The debt collector has implemented reasonable procedures to avoid errors. (Compliance training, regular audits, regular software updates and training, proper document disposal procedures, etc.)
- The consumer brought the claim to court too late. (Note: The consumer only has one year from the date of the violation to file the lawsuit.)
- The consumer cannot prove a violation of the statue. (This is why it’s important to gather proof of violation(s) via phone or email.)
- The debt collector made a “bona fide" error. (A genuine error)
Suing A Debt Collection Agency
If you have been subject to behaviors that violate the rights laid out in the FDCPA, make sure to gather your proof. Then, talk to a lawyer.
If your lawsuit is successful, you could be entitled to recover monetary damages. These include your actual damages, statutory damages up to $1,000, and costs related to the lawsuit and attorney fees – within reason.
However, if you lose, you may be subject to pay the debt collection agency’s legal costs and attorney fees.
It’s best to schedule a consultation with a consumer protection lawyer who specializes in cases like these. They know debt collections agencies well and can help you build a strong case.
No one should have to undergo harassment or other abusive behaviors from a debt collector. Thankfully, the FDCPA is there to protect your rights. A lawsuit against illegal debt collection practices can get you the compensation you deserve.