Creditors use various forms of harassment to collect on debt from annoying repetitious phone calls to debtors and their employers to intimidation and threats of violence. Both the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) prohibit abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices.
What are the prohibited collection tactics under FDCPA?
FDCPA applies to debt collectors and certain third party debt buyers and prohibits them from communicating with debtors, without prior consent or court order, at any unusual or inconvenient time or place or at the debtor’s place of employment if they know that the debtor’s employer prohibits it, or communicating with third parties or the debtor when the debtor is represented by an attorney.
FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from engaging in any conduct to harass, oppress, or abuse the debtor, such as use or threat of use violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person; use obscene or profane language or abusive language; publish a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, advertise for sale a debt to coerce payment of the debt; cause a telephone to ring or engage any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number; or place telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.
FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from using any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt, such as making false representation or implication that the debt collector is vouched for, bonded by, or affiliated with the United States or any State; making false representation of the character, amount, or legal status of any debt; making false representation or implication that any individual is an attorney or that any communication is from an attorney, that nonpayment of any debt will result in the arrest or imprisonment of any person or the seizure, garnishment, attachment, or sale of any property or wages of any person unless such action is lawful and the debt collector or creditor intends to take such action; making threats to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken, etc.
What are the prohibited collection tactics under FCCPA?
The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act’s protections against unfair and deceptive collection practices are even stronger that FDCPA because they apply to both debt collectors and original creditors.
With respect to consumer debts, the FCCPA enumerates 19 prohibited collection practices:
- Simulate a law enforcement officer or a representative of any governmental agency;
- Use or threaten force or violence;
- Tell a debtor who disputes a consumer debt that they will disclose to another information affecting the debtor’s reputation for credit worthiness without disclosing the pending dispute;
- Communicate or threaten to communicate with a debtor’s employer, without debtor’s consent or acknowledgement of the debt, before obtaining final judgment against the debtor;
- Disclose to others information affecting the debtor’s reputation when the other don’t need such information or when the information is false;
- Disclose information concerning the existence of a debt known to be reasonably disputed by the debtor without disclosing that fact;
- Willfully communicate with the debtor or his family with such frequency to harass, or willfully engage in other conduct to abuse or harass the debtor or his family;
- Use profane, obscene, vulgar, or willfully abusive language in communicating with the debtor or his family;
- Claim, attempt, or threaten to enforce a debt when such person knows that the debt is not legitimate, or assert the existence of some other legal right when such person knows that the right does not exist;
- Use a communication that simulates in any manner legal or judicial process or that gives the appearance of coming from a government, governmental agency, or attorney at law;
- Communicate with a debtor under the guise of an attorney;
- Orally give false impression or appearance that such person is or is associated with an attorney;
- Advertise or threaten to advertise for sale any debt as a means to enforce payment except under court order or when acting as an assignee for the benefit of a creditor;
- Publish or post, threaten to publish or post, or cause to be published or posted before the general public individual names or any list of names of debtors, commonly known as a deadbeat list, for the purpose of enforcing or attempting to enforce collection of consumer debts;
- Refuse to provide adequate identification if requested to do so;
- Mail any communication to a debtor in an envelope or postcard with words typed, written, or printed on the outside of the envelope or postcard calculated to embarrass the debtor. An example of this would be an envelope addressed to “Deadbeat, Jane Doe” or “Deadbeat, John Doe”;
- Communicate with the debtor between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. in the debtor’s time zone without the prior consent of the debtor;
- Communicate with a debtor if the person knows that the debtor is represented by an attorney;
- Cause a debtor to be charged for communications by concealing the true purpose of the communication, including collect telephone calls and telegram fees.
What damages can you recover if a debt collector violates FDCPA and/or FCCPA?
Any debt collector who violated any of the restrictions placed on them by FDCPA or FCCPA can be required to compensate a debtor for actual damages he sustains as a result of the unfair and deceptive conduct, a fine not to exceed $1,000, and the costs of the lawsuit including reasonable attorney’s fees.
How can we help?
If you believe your creditor or a debt collector has overstepped the FDCPA or FCCPA boundaries in attempting to collect on a debt, we can fully evaluate the circumstances of your case, advise you about the measures you can take to stop the collection harassment and preserve your opportunity to cover damages, as well as sue the offending creditor or debt collector if the harassing conduct continues for violation of FDCPA or FCCPA, or both without any cost to you. Call us now for a free non-obligation consultation. (386) 248-3000.