fbpx

Consumers have powerful legal rights against debt collectors.

Federal law gives consumers many protective legal rights.

After years of public outcry about debt collection abuse, in 1977, the U.S. Congress took action to protect Americans. They declared that there was abundant evidence of abusive, deceptive, and unfair practices by many debt collectors. They recognized that existing laws were inadequate to protect consumers. And they passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This Act, abbreviated as the FDCPA, makes illegal all kinds of bad behavior by debt collectors. It also gives consumers all kinds of legal rights against debt collectors. Since Juris helps consumers enforce their legal rights, we’ll focus on what those rights are and what steps consumers can take.

Consumers have the right to stop a debt collector from collecting.

Where this right comes from: Section 809(b) of the FDCPA.1

How to enforce this right:

  1. The consumer sends a physical letter to the debt collector asking them for the name and address of the original creditor that loaned the money or performed the services.
 or
 
  1. The consumer sends a physical letter to the debt collector stating that the debt is incorrect and that they are disputing it. The consumer might do this if they don’t recognize the debt, the amount is wrong, they already paid it back, etc.
 and
 
  1. If the consumer received a written notice from the debt collector, the consumer must send their physical letter within thirty days of receiving that written notice.

Result of enforcement: After the consumer takes these steps, the FDCPA prohibits the debt collector from trying to collect until they give the consumer information showing that the debt is valid or they get a court to order the consumer to pay the money. If the debt collector continues trying to collect before doing these things, they are likely violating the FDCPA and the consumer might be able to sue them for compensation.

Consumers have the right to stop a debt collector from contacting anyone other than the consumer’s lawyer about the debt.

Where this right comes from: Section 804(6) and 805(a)(2) of the FDCPA.2

How to enforce this right:

  1. The consumer must be represented by an attorney with regard to the debt.
 and
 
  1. The consumer must notify the debt collector that they are represented by an attorney with regard to the debt.
 and
 
  1. The consumer must give the debt collector the attorney’s name and address.
 and
 
  1. The consumer should tell the debt collector that they cannot contact anyone other than the attorney regarding the debt.

Result of enforcement: After the consumer takes these steps, the FDCPA prohibits the debt collector from contacting any person other than the attorney regarding the debt. If they contact someone other than the attorney after this right has been enforced, they are violating the FDCPA and the consumer might be able to sue them for compensation.

Consumers have the right to stop a debt collector from contacting the consumer’s place of employment.

Where this right comes from: Section 805(a)(3) of the FDCPA.3

How to enforce this right:

  1. The consumer’s place of employment must prohibit the consumer from receiving such communication.
 and
 
  1. The consumer must notify the debt collector that their employer prohibits such communication. Ideally, this notification would be by tracked mail so the consumer can prove it was sent, if necessary.

Result of enforcement: After the consumer takes these steps, the FDCPA prohibits the debt collector from contacting the consumer’s place of employment. If they contact the consumer’s place of employment after this right has been enforced, they are violating the FDCPA and the consumer might be able to sue them for compensation.

Consumers have the right to stop a debt collector from contacting them at certain places and times.

Where this right comes from: Section 805(a)(1) of the FDCPA.4

How to enforce this right:

  1. The consumer must notify the debt collector that being contacted at certain places and/or times is inconvenient to the consumer. Ideally, this notification would be by tracked mail so the consumer can prove it was sent, if necessary.

Result of enforcement: After the consumer takes these steps, the FDCPA prohibits the debt collector from contacting the consumer at the places and times that the consumer stated were inconvenient. When a consumer enforces this right, it could cause the debt collector to proceed to suing the consumer in court. This is because enforcing this right means the debt collector might no longer be able to reach the consumer. Their only remaining options might be to give up or to go through the courts.

Consumers have the right to stop a debt collector from contacting them altogether.

Where this right comes from: Section 805(c) of the FDCPA.5

How to enforce this right:

  1. The consumer sends a physical letter to the debt collector stating that the consumer is refusing to pay the debt.

 or 

  1. The consumer sends a physical letter to the debt collector stating that the debt collector must cease further communication with the consumer.

Result of enforcement: After the consumer takes these steps, the FDCPA prohibits the debt collector from contacting the consumer again. But there are some exceptions. The debt collector can contact them to (1) tell the consumer that the debt collector’s further efforts are being terminated, (2) tell the consumer that the debt collector may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector, or (3) to tell the consumer that the debt collector intends to invoke a specified remedy. When a consumer enforces this right, it may cause the debt collector to proceed to suing the consumer in court. This is because enforcing this right means the debt collector can no longer try to get the consumer to pay the debt. Their only remaining options are to give up or to go through the courts.

In addition to these rights, the FDCPA prohibits all kinds of bad behavior by debt collectors. If the debt collector violates these prohibitions, they might be subject to fines and compensation to the consumer.

 So here are some key takeaways to understand.

  1. Federal law gives consumers powerful legal rights that they can enforce against debt collectors.
  2. Enforcing these rights requires following certain steps that can be difficult to understand and execute. Many require drafting and mailing a physical letter to the debt collector. Letters are difficult to write, especially when they need to cite certain laws, state certain demands, and include specific notices. 
  3. Juris helps people enforce their legal rights! We’ve made drafting and mailing these kinds of letters easy, fast, and low cost. We’d be happy to help.

Juris is not a law firm or a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Juris provides a self-help service with general information and assistance only. Juris cannot and does not provide legal advice. Your access to this website and use of this service is subject to our Terms of Service.

If you have any comments, questions, or just want to say hi 👋, we would love to hear from you! You can use the chat system in the bottom right corner of this screen or email the team directly at team@getjuris.com.