According to data provided by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), approximately one third of Americans have at least one debt in collection in 2017. With so many people dealing with debt collectors on a regular basis, a substantial body of law has been developed regarding how collectors can deal with consumers.
Under federal regulations, debt collectors must comply with certain requirements. Most notably, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a number of different obligations have been put on debt collectors. Here, our Columbia consumer collection lawyers explain four of the most important things that companies need to know about fulfilling their duties under the FDCPA.
There are Restrictions Regarding Communication With Debtors
The FDCPA puts considerable restrictions on how debt collectors can communicate with consumers. To start, collectors are generally limited to making collection efforts during normal business hours — 8:00 am to 9:00 pm in the location wherever the consumer resides. In addition, collectors must cease general communication with a consumer when requested to do so. Finally, debt collectors can only contact third parties in order to seek basic contact information for a consumer.
Collectors Must Clearly State the Amount of the Debt
In making debt collection efforts, a company that is not the original creditor must always clearly state the amount of the debt being sought. The failure to do so could amount to an FDCPA violation. As an example, in the 2018 case of Park v. McCabe Trotter & Beverly, P.C., a federal court in South Carolina ruled that a law firm committed an FDCPA violation by including its attorneys’ fees in the total amount the debtor owed. The firm failed to indicate that its fees were included, simply sending the consumer a notice with a single number on it.
The Debt May Need to Be Validated
Collectors have a duty to provide consumers with certain basic information to validate the debt. Specifically, in its initial communications, a debt collector should highlight the total amount of the debt and the name of the original creditor, and they should notify the consumer that they have 30 days to challenge the validity of the debt or it will be assumed valid.
Abusive, Unfair Practices are Prohibited
Finally, abusive and unfair debt collection practices are prohibited under the FDCPA. Abuse and harassment can include things like coercion, threats, and intentional annoyance. Unfair practices can include tactics such as making false statements, misrepresenting potential legal consequences of not paying, and attempting to collect fees and penalties that are not permitted under United States law.
Speak to Our South Carolina Consumer Collection Attorneys Today
At Crawford & von Keller, LLC, our top-rated consumer collection lawyers always comply with all relevant legal requirements under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. We are committed to providing our clients with comprehensive, fully personalized legal guidance. To set up a strictly confidential initial consultation, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm today.