Consumers should be aware of unfair collection practices by creditors and debt collectors. These practices can be found in a variety of debt collection activities, including, but not limited to, HOA Assessment Collection, First and Second Mortgage Collection Activities, Credit Card Debts, and any other delinquent-account related collection activities. If you or someone you know is being harassed by a creditor, or is receiving questionable communications (either written or telephonic) pertaining an alleged debt, you may be entitled to recover damages for these violations. The most common violations stem from the following:
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
The FDCPA is a federal statute that prohibits debt collectors from harassing consumers over unpaid personal, family, and household debts (non-business debts) associated with medical care, mortgages, credit card accounts, car payments, and retail financing. Entities or individuals attempting to collect debt on behalf of another are bound by the FDCPA regulations. In general, the FDCPA governs collector’s actions with respect to:
- Acquisition of the Debtor’s Location – collectors must provide their identity, motive, and employer, if asked, to a third party they’re gathering the debtor’s location from and may only contact these parties once to determine the debtor’s location.
- Communication with Consumers – collectors may not contact the consumer at inconvenient times (before 8am or after 9am); if aware the consumer is represented by an attorney; or at their place of employment if it is known the communication will negatively affect the debtor.
- Disrespect of Consumers – collectors may not harass or abuse individuals connected to the collection of a debt by threatening violence, using offensive language, or repeating contact with the debtor with the intent to harass.
- Misrepresentation and Unfair Practices – collectors may not misrepresent the character, status or amount of the debt; claim to be a government official or attorney; imply criminal arrest for failure to pay the debt; or threaten impermissible legal action.
- Validation of Debts – collectors must send a written statement of the amount of debt owed, name of the lender, and payment due date within five days after initial contact with the debtor.
If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, a consumer may be able to recover statutory damages up to $1,000 per claim, plus actual damages (e.g. emotional distress) and attorney’s fees and court costs. If, upon review of the documents, phone calls, or other communications you have received, our office discovers a collection practices violation, we will take your case on a contingency fee basis.
**Please note – the FDCPA has a one-year statute of limitations to bring your lawsuit.
Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA)
The FCCPA is Florida’s law that mirrors the FDCPA in many ways but also expands consumer coverage by applying the regulations to “original creditors” as well as “debt collectors.” This binds original creditors who are attempting to collect their own debts from engaging in behavior prohibited by the FDCPA and FCCPA. Under the FCCPA, prior to a final judgment, debt collectors and creditors may not:
- Pose as a government official or attorney
- Threaten force or violence
- Tell or threaten to tell the debtor’s employer about the debt
- Disclose information to a third party outside the debtor’s family about the debtor that damages the debtor’s reputation
- Harass the debtor by contacting the debtor or the debtor’s family too frequently
- Use profane or willfully abusive language
- Mail communications which publicly display embarrassing information about the debtor
- Contact the consumer at inconvenient times (before 8am or after 9am) without permission
If an original creditor or debt collector violates the FCCPA, a consumer may be able to recover punitive damages in addition to statutory damages up to $1,000 per claim, actual damages (e.g. emotional distress) and attorney’s fees and court costs. If, upon review of the documents, phone calls, or other communications you have received, our office discovers a collection practices violation, we will take your case on a contingency fee basis.
**Please note – the FDCPA has a two-year statute of limitations to bring your lawsuit.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
The TCPA is a federal statute designed to stop debt collection agencies and telemarketers from contacting consumers without their consent or permission through the illegal use of automatic telephone dialing systems (“ATDS” or “robo-dialers”) and prerecorded messages directed to:
- Mobile Phones
- Text Messages
- Home Phones
- Fax Lines
Every time a debt collector or a telemarketer sends a text message or uses an automated dialer with a pre-recorded message to call consumer cell phones unless that company has permission to contact that person, it is a TCPA violation. TCPA also limits telemarketers and debt collectors from calling individuals who already signed up to a Do-Not-Call PC Registry or if you have requested that the company stop calling you.
Under the TCPA, you may be able to recover between $500 and $1500 for each violation from debt collectors or telemarketers who knowingly and willfully commit violations. If you are currently receiving multiple automated telemarketing calls or collection calls, then call the Law Offices of Jarrett R. Williams, P.A. today to evaluate your right to sue and recover damages.
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