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What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

By Christy Bieber
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law passed in the United States in 1978 to protect debtors rights. It is codified as a federal statute in the United States Code under 15 U.S.C. § 1692. Its many regulations provide protection for those who owe money and set limits on the collection practices used by creditors.

The FDCPA sets forth a number of limitations on the manner in which a creditor can go after a debtor to collect an unpaid debt. It was passed to protect consumers from abusive practices that were occurring within the collections industry. While it also protects creditors rights when it comes to collecting debts to some extent, it is primarily consumer protection legislation.

Under rules set forth in the fair debt collection practices act, creditors may not contact a person to attempt to collect a debt before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., based on the debtor's local time. Creditors may also not make repeated or harassing telephone calls to debtors.

Furthermore, if a consumer makes a formal request in writing not to be contacted regarding the debt, the debt collector may not continue to contact him. The collector may, however, continue to attempt collection efforts according to the Fair Debt collection practices act. He may do so by filing litigation against the consumer and/or reporting the debtor's nonpayment to the major credit reporting agencies.

Other restrictions on communication apply as well in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. For example, people who owe money are entitled to request proof of debt. They may do so in a debt validation letter. Once a consumer sends a debt validation letter in writing via certified mail, the debt collectors must cease communication until they have sent proof of the debt.

A creditor also has certain other limitations on what he may do. He may not, for example, send documents that appear to be legal papers if they are not actually legal papers, nor may he threaten legal action over the telephone unless he sincerely intends to file legal action against the consumer.

Creditors are not permitted to disclose the debt to other parties. This means they may not tell a debtor's neighbors, employers or family that he owes a debt. They may, however, contact a neighbor or family member to attempt to obtain contact information to find the debtor.

Numerous other regulations and limitations exist under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Consumers who are concerned about their rights under the act may read the full text available from the website of the Federal Trade Commission. Contacting the attorney general is also an appropriate course of action for consumers who believe their rights are being violated.

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