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Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

Common Questions under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). 

What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (aka FDCPA)?

The FDCPA is a set of law found at 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., a United States statute added in 1978 as Title VIII of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. 15 USC 1692

What is the purpose of the FDCPA?

In the most simply terms, the law was passed to protect consumers from abusive debt collectors. Its purpose is to eliminate abusive practices in the collection of consumer debts, to promote fair debt collection and to provide consumers with an avenue for disputing and obtaining validation of debt information in order to ensure the information's accuracy. The Act creates guidelines under which debt collectors may conduct business, defines rights of consumers involved with debt collectors, and prescribes penalties and remedies for violations of the Act. 15 USC 1692

Are all debts subject to the FDCPA?

No, only debts that arise out of a transaction in which the money, property, insurance or services were primarily for personal, family or household purposes. In other words, not business debts. 15 USC 1692a

Who or what is a debt collector?

A debt collector is anybody who regularly collects debts owed to another, including those who purchase debts owed to another when the debt was in default at the time of purchase. 15 USC 1692a This also includes lawyers and attorneys who regularly collect debts of another. What is not a debt collector, is the originally creditor collecting its own debt.

What type of actions are illegal under the FDCPA?

The FDCPA and case law have developed a wide body of actions which are illegal, if fact to many to list here. Simply, if what a collector or lawyer is saying to you just doesn't make sense it probably should not have been said. Even if you owe the debt or some portion of the debt but have fallen behind, that does not give anyone the right to threaten and embarrass you. The following types of behavior by a debt collector toward a consumer over the telephone, in writing, or in person will likely be a violation of the FDCPA:
Disrespectful
Undignified
Unfair, or
Untrue

What can I do if I believe the debt collector violated the FDCPA?

If you feel that you have been treated in such a manner, you may have a right to sue the debt collector and get money back from THEM for their misconduct. If a debt collector has left a voice mail for you or discussed your matter with co-workers or other family members they may have violated the FDCPA.

How do I pay an attorney to represent me for a FDCPA claim?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Dictates That The Collection Agency Must Pay Your Reasonable Attorney Fees If You Win Your Claim! If Your Claim is Not Successful You Still Do Not Have To Pay Us!

What can I get from a FDCPA case?

If you are successful in an FDCPA claim, you can get up to $1000 for the violation plus any actual damages you may have suffered, plus attorney fees and costs.

What can I do about my credit report?

The FDCPA is sometimes used in conjunction with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), to correct wrong credit reporting entries. The FCRA also provides for damages plus payment of attorney fees and costs.

A debt collector told me that they will garnish my wages, is that allowed?

The threat to garnish wages of an individual is illegal, since that cannot occur in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Under Pennsylvania law, wages may only be garnished in connection with an action or proceedings: (1) involving divorce; (2) for support; (3) for board for four weeks or less; (4) for crime restitution; (5) for damages awarded to a judgment creditor-landlord arising out of a residential lease upon which a court has rendered a final judgment; or, (6) under the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency Act. See 42 Pa C.S.A. §8127. The representation or implication that nonpayment of any debt will result in the arrest or imprisonment of any person or the seizure, garnishment, attachment, or sale of any property or wages of any person unless such action is lawful and the debt collector or creditor intends to take such action in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(4).

A debt collector sent a fax to my employer asking for information, is that allowed?

Generally it is a violation of the FDCPA for a debt collector to contact a third-party for any information about the consumer, except for "location information". "Location Information" means a consumer's place of abode and his telephone number at such place, or his place of employment, 15 USC 1692a(7). Any request for information other than "location information" is not allowed and is a violation of the FDCPA. 23. A debt collector may not communicate with a third party, unless it is for the purpose of acquiring location information about the consumer, see 15 USC § 1692b.

I have been contacted by a debt collector I have never heard of, what can I do?

Within five days after the initial communication from a debt collector, the debt collector shall send the consumer a written notice containing the amount of the debt, name of the creditor, a statement that the consumer has 30 days to dispute the debt, and if requested the debt collector will provide the name and address of the original creditor. 15 USC § 1692g. This is referred to as the "G Notice". You the consumer have only 30 days to send a written dispute to the debt collector disputing the debt and requesting the name of the original creditor. Once the debt collector receives the dispute, it must stop all collection efforts including the reporting of the debt to the credit bureaus until the debt collector validates the debt. So the short answer, send a written dispute via certified mail return receipt requested to the debt collector and make sure you keep a copy.

I have been sued at an address that I don't live at, is this a violation?

It depends, any debt collector who files any legal action on a debt against any consumer shall bring such action only in the judicial district or similar legal entity in which such consumer signed the contact sued upon or in which such consumer resides at the commencement of the action. 15 USC § 1692i. If you now live outside Pennsylvania, but was sued in Pennsylvania, you may have a FDCPA claim.

What if I am told something by the debt collector that I know is not true, is that still a violation of the FDCPA?

The FDCPA is a 'remedial' statute that is 'construed broadly, so as to effect is purpose'. Rosenau v. Unifund Corp., 539 F.3d 218 (3rd Cir. 2008). All communication from a debt collector is to be analyzed under the least sophisticated debtor standard. A communication is deceptive for purposes of the FDCPA if it can be reasonably read to have two or more different meanings, one of which is inaccurate. In other words, if your told that the debt collector will garnish your wages and you know that can't be true because you live in Pennsylvania, you still have a FDCPA violation.

I am being sued by a debt collector and he is seeking a percentage for attorney fees, is that allowed?

If the debt collector is suing you based upon an agreement that allows it to recover reasonable attorney fees and the debt collector is seeking a percentage, say 15% in the complaint, it would be a violation of the FDCPA for that debt collector to seeking liquated attorney fees. The contact allows the debt collector to seek only reasonable attorney fees, not liquated attorney fees.

A debt collector has called me and asked me to pay the debt of my late husband or father, am I required to pay those debts?

Generally if you're not obligated to contractually pay the debt you're not then obligated to pay the debt otherwise. It can be complicated, but if you believe that if the deceased person was alive today you would not have to pay the debt and then just because they died does not make you obligated to pay their debts. Spouses and children are not responsible for each other's debts, except for some exceptions.

Who are the debt collectors that you see or hear about in your practice?

That is a hard answer to nail down, the debt collectors we see are constantly changing, but generally we have heard and/or see the following(in no particular order):

Midland Credit Management
Fairbanks Capital
Select Portfolio
Mann Branken
Palisades
Phillips & Cohen
Credit Bureau
Asta
Encore
B-Line
eCast
LTD
North Star Capital
Affiliated Group
Unifund
Arrow Financial
Great Lakes Collection
Law offices of Mitchell Kay
Commercial Recovery
Global Acceptance
Encore Receivable
Great Seneca
Javitch, Block& Rathbone
MRC Receivables
Consumer Adjustment Company
Burton Neil & Associates
The Cadel Company
AFNI
Weltman, Weinberg, Reis & Company
Paramount Recovery
Creditors Interchange
Niagara Credit Solutions
JBC Legal Group
GC Services
LHR
Titan Management
Apothaker & Associates
Patenaude & Felix
Corporate Receivables
Diversified Collection
Associated Creditors
Capital Management
Midpoint Resolution Group
Cavalry Portfolio
CACH
Lender's Edge Recovery
Redline Recovery
NCO
Credit Control
Thomas & Thomas
Focus Receivables
National Enterprise Systems
LVNV
Eric Berman
Portfolio Recovery
Allied Interstate
Chase Litigation Services
Sentry Credit
Resurgent
Viking Collection
Capital Recovery
GC Services
I.C. Systems
Great Seneca
Remit Corporation
Shapiro Law Office
Four Seasons Investments
Advantage Assets
Fortis Capital
Riverwalk Holdings
American Credit Collections
ACC
Northstar Capital
OSI Portfolio
Asset Acceptance
Atlantic Credit
North Star Capital
Brachfield
Midland Funding
Carrington Recovery Servcies
Commonwealth Financial Systems
Claims Recovery

If Collectors violate the law and violate your privacy, you can fight back! No Fees to you-The Collection Agency will have to pay you if you win your suit and they have to pay your Attorney Fees!!

Contact our office today at 412-281-1250 or 1-888-536-6644 for a no cost, no obligation review of your Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) legal issue.

Clay Morrow, Esq.

Clay handles the claims that are filed against debt collectors who make illegal threats or who place improper marks on your credit report.  Clay typically can make the debt collector pay your legal fees.

Greg Artim, Esq.

Greg defends consumers who have been sued by junk debt buyers, collection agencies or credit card companies. The odds of success in these cases are tilted strongly towards the consumer.

PA Credit Card Blog

Visit our PA Credit Card Blog for a collection of articles and posts about Pennsylvania credit card laws and some of the credit issues that we have faced.
 
 
About Our Firm

At Morrow and Artim, P.C. our focus is on Pennsylvania Consumer Law, whether its defending against collection agency lawsuits, suing debt collectors, handling unfair trade practice claims or assisting with identity theft matters.

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