Florida residents who are struggling to pay their bills will likely know that debt collectors can be extremely persistent. Many companies call consumers every day in an effort to collect unpaid debts, but there are certain tactics that they are prohibited from using. Congress took action to rein in debt-collection companies in 1977 when it passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The law contains a detailed list of practices that cannot be used in pursuit of unpaid debts.
The practices prohibited by the FDCPA include calling consumers before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., pretending to be police officers or government officials, using threats, intimidation, coercion or deceit, continuing to contact consumers after being asked to cease and desist, and threatening to shame or embarrass consumers. When companies ignore the provisions of the FDCPA, consumers can file complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or take action directly by filing a lawsuit.
While the FDCPA goes a long way toward stemming abuses in the debt-collection industry, it only applies to companies that are acting on behalf of others or pursuing debts that they purchased from the original lenders. This means that creditors pursuing their own debts are not bound by the law’s provisions. However, credit card companies and banks tend to steer clear of the kind of behavior that led to the law’s passage.
Attorneys with bankruptcy law experience could explain that the automatic stay issued when a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 petition is filed prohibits debt collectors from taking any further action. Attorneys could also point out that the FDCPA is what is known as a strict liability law. That means plaintiffs who file lawsuits over alleged beaches of the law may prevail even if they did not suffer any injury, loss or damage.