The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”) are two statutes that protect consumers from creditors’ and debt collectors’ unfair debt collection practices. Unfortunately, the majority of consumers are unaware these two statutes even exist. Many consumers think since they owe a debt, they must deal with the constant harassment of collection letters and phone calls from creditors and debt collectors. Simply put, they believe they must reap what they sow. Others cannot afford to pay their debts and merely disregard these letters and ignore the calls. However, the FDCPA and FCCPA allow consumers to turn the tables on creditors and debt collectors.
HOW IS IT ILLEGAL FOR A CREDITOR OR DEBT COLLECTOR TO COLLECT A DEBT THAT I OWE?
Yes, creditors and debt collectors are allowed to legally attempt to collect on debts owed by consumers. Legally is the operative word here. There is a list of rules which creditors and debt collectors must abide by when attempting to collect a debt from a consumer. For example, they cannot discuss your debt with third parties such as your friends or family. They cannot call you so frequently as to harass you or call you after you have told them to stop calling. In addition, debt collectors will send collection letters which contain minuscule, technical violations. The average consumer, or attorney for that matter, will not be able to spot these technical violations. That is why it is imperative to have an experienced attorney review these collection letters.
WHAT DO I DO IF I AM RECEIVING COLLECTION LETTERS OR CALLS AND HOW DOES IT BENEFIT ME?
Simple- If you are one of the many consumers who are receiving collection letters or calls, you should consult with an attorney. You may be thinking, well, if I cannot afford to pay my debt, how can I afford to pay an attorney? This is without a doubt the best part of the FDCPA and FCCPA- these two statutes require creditors and debt collectors to pay the consumer’s attorneys’ fees if they are found in violation of either law. In other words, a consumer will never have to pay for attorneys’ fees! I know- it sounds too good to be true. However, this is exactly why the FDCPA and FCCPA were enacted- to provide consumers an avenue of recourse to stop unfair collection practices. These two statutes give consumers a fighting chance and allow them to turn the tables on creditors and debt collectors. In addition to having your attorneys’ fees paid for, consumers are entitled up to $1,000 if a creditor or debt collector violates either of these laws. That’s right- not only will consumers never pay attorneys’ fees, they can also be compensated for creditors’ and debt collectors’ unfair collection practices.
Jon Dubbeld is head of the creditor harassment department at Berkowitz & Myer. He has successfully litigated hundreds of cases across the state of Florida. He may be contacted at Jon@berkmyer.com.