Sure you are tired of receiving harassing phone calls and threatening letters, but who are you to file a debt collection lawsuit? For one, you are a debtor with rights guaranteed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
You do not need to hire a lawyer to sue a collection agency, although it is recommended for complicated cases. Still, anyone can file a lawsuit to challenge a debt collector who they believe has violated their rights.
It is true that collection agencies have a right to pursue legitimate debts that you have defaulted on. However, nothing gives them the right to violate your rights in an attempt to harass, threaten, intimidate or embarrass you.
These are some of the more common violations of collection agencies that could justify a lawsuit as well as the specific code they are violating:
- Fail to send you notice within 5 days of first contact to notify you of your right to request validation/dispute the debt within the first 30 days [15 USC 1692g] § 809(a).
- Fail to send you proof of the debt as validation when requested, yet continue to pursue repayment of the debt [15 USC 1692g] § 809(b).
- Frequent daily telephone calls, often within minutes of each other [15 USC 1692d] § 806(5).
- Calling before 8 am or after 9 pm [15 USC 1692c] § 805(a)(1).
- Calling you at times you have already expressed as being inconvenient to you [15 USC 1692c] § 805(a)(1).
- Calling you at work knowing your employer does not approve of the calls [15 USC 1692c] § 805(a)(3).
- Using profane or abusive language [15 USC 1692d] § 806(2).
- Communicating threats of violence [15 USC 1692d] § 806(1).
- Communicating threats of action that are unlikely or illegal, such as judgment, wage garnishment, liens, loss of employment, destruction of credit or imprisonment. Debt collectors must have a legal right to pursue certain actions and a history of pursuing similar actions before they can threaten those actions against you [15 USC 1692e] § 807(5).
- Require a payment of more than you actually owe [15 USC 1692e] § 807(2)(a).
- Add additional fees to your debt that are not listed in your loan/credit contract [15 USC 1692f] § 808(1).
- Calling third parties (family, neighbor, employer) repeatedly to track you down [15 USC 1692b] § 804(1).
- Revealing that you owe a debt to unauthorized third parties [15 USC 1692c] § 805(b).
- Ignoring a demand to cease and desist all communications regarding the debt [15 USC 1692c] § 805(c).
Many of these violations carry a $1,000 fine against the debt collector. Multiple violations can rack up big damages against a violator. Some also allow for actual damages, which can allow for some pretty big awards in certain cases.
Given the complexities of collection laws, most collection agencies violate multiple terms of the FDCPA on a daily basis. Many collection agents have little or no direct supervision, leaving them capable of committing multiple violations on a large scale as they attempt to boost their own collections rates and the commissions that they receive. As a result, there are frequently opportunities for you as a debtor to pursue damages against a collection agency that violates your rights.
Some debtors have become very good at winning debt collection lawsuits against their collectors. One thing they have in common is that they document every communication between them and their collectors. All phone calls are documented with the date, time, company name, agent name and the conversation details. Recording such calls can yield much proof, but there are many legal limitations regarding the recording of phone calls. Therefore, you should seek legal advice on whether it is allowed for you to record such calls in your state.
In situations where severe violations can be documented, it is highly recommended that you hire an attorney to pursue a lawsuit under the FDCPA. Such damages can be well over $100,000 on some of the worst cases. For simple cases, you may find that filing a lawsuit in small claims court may serve your needs well. Many debt collectors will cancel the debt rather than face the music in court over their own conduct.
Protect your rights and be willing to back up your argument in court if needed. Any debt should be repaid if you legitimately owe it and are able to repay it. However, nothing gives a rogue debt collector the right to break the law at your expense. If this happens to you, consider filing a debt collection lawsuit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act!
Long is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Industrial Relations. He subsequently received his Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University. His Certificate in Financial Planning was issued by Florida State University.
Long has achieved the Accredited Credit Counselor and Accredited Financial Counselor certifications through the Association for Financial Counseling, Planning and Education. Long originally achieved the Certified Credit Counselor designation through the National Institute for Financial Education.
In addition to years of nonprofit leadership, Long has been an innovator in the field of volunteer tax return preparation programs. He assists volunteer associations and nonprofit organizations who seek to integrate credit counseling and asset-building programs with free personal income tax preparation. His approach to using free credit reports as both an incentive and a screening tool for placement into asset-building programs has been shared with members of the National Community Tax Coalition, the EITC-Carolinas Initiative of MDC, Inc. and nonprofit groups across the Carolinas.
Long assists members of our armed forces in the Carolinas, Iowa, Rhode Island, Georgia and Germany with financial readiness. Please support our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors!
"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."