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Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

  • This page contains general information. Call us at (715) 832-5151 for specific advice.

The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) applies to consumer debts. Collection agencies, debt buyers and attorneys are subject to the Act.

Original creditors are not covered under the FDCPA (unless they collect under a separate trade name). However, original creditors are covered by the rules set forth in the Wisconsin Consumer Act.

“Consumer”, when used below, includes the debtor and the debtor’s spouse or, if the debtor is a minor, the debtor’s parent.

Under the FDCPA debt collectors are required to:

– identify self and purpose of call when contacting third parties (which can only be done to locate consumer). The collector must not mention the name of the collecting firm unless the third party expressly requests such information.

– contact only the consumer’s attorney once the collector learns the consumer is represented by counsel (and the identity of the attorney).

– disclose in all communications with the consumer that the contacting party is “a debt collector.”

– at the time of, or within 5 days of, initial contact (unless the debt is already paid), advise the consumer, in writing (1) that the collector is attempting to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose, (2) of the amount of the debt, (3) of the name of the creditor, (6) that, unless the consumer disputes the debt within 30 days, the collector will assume the debt is valid and (5) that, if the consumer, in writing, disputes the debt the collector  will obtain written verification and mail same to debtor.

NOTE that, if the consumer disputes the debt or requests the name of the original creditor, collection must cease until the verification or information is supplied to the consumer.

Under the FDCPA debt collectors are prohibited from:

– contacting third parties (other than credit reporting agencies) for any purpose other than locating consumer (unless prior consumer consent is given directly to the collector).

– telling third parties that the consumer owes a debt or, in any mailed communication, use any symbol or language (including the name of the collecting firm) which indicates that the collector is in the debt collecting business or that a debt is being collected.

– contacting third parties more than once (except for legitimate follow-up).

– corresponding by postcard or using an envelope which indicates the collector is in the debt collection business.

– contacting the consumer at unusual or inconvenient times or places. Unless there is notice to the contrary, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. is assumed convenient.

– contacting the consumer at the consumer’s workplace if the employer prohibits such contact.

– contacting the consumer after the consumer, in writing, refuses to pay or requests no further contact. (We recommend that you keep a copy of this letter and send the original by certified mail, return receipt requested.)

– harassing, oppressing or abusing any person, including: use or threaten violence or criminal prosecution; use obscene or profane language; publish lists of debtors (except within the scope of a credit reporting agency’s business); repeatedly or continuously engaging a person in telephone conversation with the intent to annoy or harass any person at the number called; failing to identify self during telephone calls (except when prohibited in contact with third parties).

– using false, deceptive or misleading representations, including misrepresenting (1)   affiliation with the government, (2) amount or legal status of the debt, (3) legal consequences of non-payment, (4) collector’s intention to take any action, (5) in the course of obtaining information about the consumer or (6) the name of the collecting firm.

If you think a debt collector is violating the FDCPA then you should keep a written diary of the dates, times and substance of the collector’s communications.

Contact us for a consultation if you would like assistance in dealing with collector harrassment.