By Tammy Fink
Special to GUIDON
October is Consumer Awareness Month, and the Financial Readiness Office wants you to know your rights.
Fair Debt Collections Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was established in September 1977 as an amendment to the Consumer Credit Protection Act.
The act established legal protections from abusive practices by debt collectors and a means to dispute and validate consumer debt that is said to be owed. There are many guidelines that debt collectors must follow and if not followed, may be penalized.
First we need to identify who is a “debt collector.” The FDCPA defines a debt collector as “any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business, the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another.”
Put simply, it is one who is attempting to get a consumer to pay the debt they owe to a creditor. This generally means a third party, which includes lawyers. Many states have similar laws regarding original creditor collections.
Knowing your consumer rights and the tools to report abusive behavior, harassment and/or deceptive conduct are just one of the many resources that build your financial stability. Reportable offenses include but are not limited to:
You have the right to
request a cease-and-desist communication notification. This must be done in writing. Once the collection agency receives the correspondence, they must cease all communication with you unless it is to take legal action against you. You may lift the cease and desist by writing the collection agency and stating such.
The collection agency must abide by the phone contacting rules. They cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in your local time. They may not threaten to arrest the consumer or use profane or abusive language.
The collection agency may not disclose to any other person what the reason for their call is. They may only state their name and their return call information. They must inform you of your rights to dispute incorrect information and they must use the “Mini Miranda” statement that simply says that they are a debt collection company and that this is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose.
You have the right to request a validation of the debt that the collection agency is attempting to collect on. This is done in writing and is recommended you track the letter to ensure it has been received by the collection agency. They must send you the original creditor information with address, when they began servicing the debt, the original amount of the debt and provide costs of collection efforts in their attempt to collect on the debt. Until they can validate the debt, they may not contact the consumer. If they fail to respond, they must remove the item from the consumer’s credit report.
If you have or know someone that has had their rights violated under the FDCPA, please contact Financial Readiness at 573.596.2078 for assistance filing your complaint. You may also file the complaint on your own at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website, www.consumerfinance.gov.
(Editor’s note: Fink is a Personal Financial Readiness specialist at FRO.)