In times of economic instability and inflation, many may have rising debt levels. Rising debt can often lead to predatory and unfair collection practices by creditors or collection companies. That is why it is essential to know that you have rights as an individual with debt. Federal law protects you from unfair debt collection practices, and California law goes beyond those federal protections to afford you even more rights. Creditors, lenders, and collection companies may violate these laws to scare you into paying. In these circumstances, you could be entitled to damages and have your attorney's fees paid by the harassing company or collector.
What Is The FDCPA?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that dictates unfair collection practices for creditors. California goes beyond federal law and has its own act called the Rosenthal FDCPA. California law (the Rosenthal FDCPA) gives consumers more protections than federal law. More protections generally mean more restrictions on creditors' unfair collection practices. If creditors engage in unfair collection practices against you, you may have the right to sue them for damages.
What Are Unfair Collection Practices?
Unfair collection practices can generally be described as harassment by a creditor or collection agency. Below are a few examples of unfair debt collection practices:
- Repeatedly calling or contacting you
- Calling before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm.
- Threatening to have you arrested
- Using threats of violence or actual violence if you do not pay your debt
- Using foul or obscene language
- Contacting you at work knowing your employer disapproves
- Ignoring your written request to verify the debt
- Illegally informing a third party about your debt
- Continuing collection attempts after receiving a cease communication notice
If you believe you have been subjected to unfair collection practices, a skilled collection harassment attorney can help determine whether you are entitled to sue.
What Types Of Debt Are Protected By The FDCPA?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act extends to consumer debt; this means debt that was primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. Most debt that is not a result of business purposes is covered. Here are some examples of debt that the FDCPA covers:
- Credit Card Debt
- Medical Care or Hospitalization Debt
- Gas or Electric Bill Debt
- Phone, Internet, or Cable Service Debt
- Rental Debt
- Student Loan Debt
- Appliance, Furniture, or Fixture Loans
To be covered by the FDCPA, the debt must be owned by a person and not a business. Involuntary debts, such as child support, traffic tickets, or taxes, are generally not covered by the FDCPA as they are not consumer debts.
What Are The Differences Between A Debt Collector, A Creditor, And Collection Agency?
A debt collector is an organization or business contacting you about paying your debt. For the FDCPA, a debt collector means a collection agency, as defined below. However, under the California Rosenthal FDCPA (state law), a debt collector can also mean an original creditor. In California, original creditors are subject to unfair collection practice laws.
A creditor is an original organization or business that you owe a debt. Examples of a creditor might be the credit card company you have a balance with or the bank through which you got a home loan.
A collection agency is a business the creditor has hired to collect the original debt.
Can I Stop A Debt Collector From Calling Me?
Typically, you can issue a cease communications notice to the debt collector. You can do this through certified mail, so the collector must sign and acknowledge they received the letter. In most cases, the debt collector will receive your letter and stop contacting you. There are a few exceptions to further contact, such as: acknowledging they received the letter or contacting you if the debt collector or creditor files a lawsuit against you.
Second, if an attorney represents you, then your attorney can issue a demand that communications only go through representation. You will stop receiving calls or contact from the debt collector, and your attorney should timely field all communications with the debt collector.
What Are The Penalties For Unfair Debt Collection Practices?
You are entitled to the protections afforded by the FDCPA and California's Rosenthal FDCPA. Under these laws, debt collectors can be liable for:
- Actual Damages
- Lost Wages
- Pain or Suffering
- Medical Expenses
- Additional Damages
- Not over $1,000
- Court Fees
- Any costs associated with paying the court
- Reasonable Attorney Fees
- Any fees that are required to pay your attorney
An experienced California FDCPA attorney can assist you in navigating if you have a good claim to any of these penalties or damages.
Can I Be Arrested For Not Paying My Debt?
You cannot be arrested only for not paying your debt. If a debt collector suggests you will be arrested if you do not pay your debt, contact an experienced attorney immediately.
You may be arrested for failing to comply with court orders, which may come from a debt collector filing a civil action against you in a court of law.
DO comply with court orders. DO NOT give in to the scare tactics of debt collectors. If you have problems figuring out if you are being subject to scare tactics or if the court is compelling you, then contact an attorney immediately. For a free consultation, call (844) 431-3851.
When And Where Can Debt Collectors Call Me?
Debt collectors can call you between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm unless given permission. Debt collectors can also contact you at work unless you have told them they cannot or that your employer disapproves.
If you are being called outside of that hour range or being called at work after denying permission, contact an attorney about your potential claim for unfair debt collection practices.
California Collections Harassment (FDCPA) Attorney
If you have other questions, please contact Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC. Our professional law corporation is highly experienced with collections harassment. So far, in 2022, we have eliminated over $12 million of client debt, and we are well versed in what debt collectors are and aren't allowed to do. Please call (855) 709-5788 or contact us online for a free consultation.