Debt collection is not illegal, but some of the methods used by debt collectors are. According the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in 2017, consumer complaints about debt collectors were in the thousands; CFPB took about 85,000 complaints alone. Investigations into the complaints revealed numerous violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA).
Both the CFPB and the FTC have litigated cases against some of debt collectors derived from the complaints. Those resolved by the FTC so far have resulted in more than $64 million awarded in judgments. The CFPB has also resolved one enforcement case resulting in compensation for a consumer and funds added to the civil penalty fund. The FTC has also excluded 13 debt collectors from the collections business.
All of these complaints of illegal actions taken by debt collection agencies prompted the CFPB to create five sample letters that consumers could use when dealing with a debt collector. They received a huge response, tracking over 517,000 downloads of the letters in 2017 alone. But more help is needed.
A senior attorney for Consumers Union says there are far too many complaints of consumers being hounded about debts they either never owed or had already paid off. She says the collectors often have no proof the debt even existed or that they have the right person.
Third in the category of complaints was the harassing phone call, which even when consumers requested to be stopped, continued. Debt collectors are forbidden under the FDCPA to contact consumers at inconvenient times or places (before 8:00 a.m or after 9:00 p.m) without your permission. They are also forbidden to contact consumers at work if a consumer makes them aware that he or she cannot take their calls at work.
You have rights as a consumer to live without harassment from anyone. If you want to know what your rights are or options for debt relief, contact an attorney who deals with debt relief and bankruptcy laws.
Source: Consumer Affairs, “Debt collection still a big source of consumer complaints,” Mark Huffman, March 21, 2018