Consumers have legal rights protecting them from overly aggressive creditors. These protections are granted by the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA. When a debt collector violates federal law when dealing with a borrower, the borrower can take steps to protect their rights. What steps you take will depend on your end goal. Do you want to sue the debt collector? Do you want to report the debt collector to government agencies? Do you want to use the violations as leverage in negotiating the debt?
Has a debt collector contacted you in violation of FDCPA? If so, you may be able to:
These violations include that the debt collector will have to pay “reasonable attorney fees”, so you may want to see a local attorney that files these lawsuits, as it will cost you nothing.
- Sue in State Court: Consumers may bring suit against debt collectors in violation of FDCPA regulations in state court. Consumers who wish to sue debt collectors must prove that the violation occurred. Successful suits may result in statutory damages up to $1,000 or more if there are other federal violations to “stack” with the FDCPA. This response is time consuming, but if successful can result in the highest monetary damages.
- Sue in Small Claims Court: Consumers may bring suit against debt collectors in violation of FDCPA in small claims courts. This may be a better option for those who do not want to spend the time necessary for a lawsuit in state court. Small claims courts allow consumers to argue their case through an expedited process – typically with one shortened hearing during which they can argue their case in front of a judge. This option typically requires a few months for compete resolution and using this option limits the amount of damages.
- Reporting the Violation: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) oversees debt collector activities and ensures the FDCPA is not violated during debt collection practices. Consumers who have been subjected to a violation can contact the FTC with concerns. Consumers also have the option to contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to lodge complaints. These complaints are passed to the creditor. The CFPB then works with the consumer and the creditor to resolve the issue. Creditors in violation of the FDCPA may also be in violation of state law. State law violations may contact the State Attorney General’s office for possible actions to take in response to violations.
- Use the Violation as Leverage: Consumers who are trying to settle the debt, may wish to use the FDCPA violation as leverage during settlement negotiations. This may work because collectors are aware that a FDCPA lawsuit can be costly and could result in a judgment against them. You will have much more leverage if you have strong evidence of the violation such as: multiple letters, testimony of co-workers who received calls, records of phone calls, etc.
If you need help protecting your consumer rights or if you need to discuss what to do when a debt collector or creditor violates FDCPA, please get in touch with one of the experienced consumer law attorneys at Aronow Law PC today.