In its recent report, “Annual Report 2007: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,” the FTC noted that it received more than 69,000 complaints from consumers for abusive practices by debt collectors. The FTC acknowledges that this is likely a small percentage of the consumers who are actually being harassed by debt collectors.
Though the FTC is charged with policing agencies such as debt collectors, there is only so much it can do with the limited resources it has. The FTC defines its role as follows:
These actions are part of the Commission’s ongoing effort to curtail deceptive, unfair, and abusive debt collection practices in the market place. Such practices cause substantial consumer injury, including payment of amounts not owed, unintended waivers of rights, invasions of privacy, and emotional distress. In some circumstances, illegal collection practices can place consumers deeper in debt. Although the Commission is vested with primary enforcement responsibility under the FDCPA, it shares overall enforcement responsibility with other federal agencies. In addition, consumers who believe they have been victims of statutory violations may seek relief in state or federal court.
The FTC will only bring suit against a debt collector where it has determined there is a culture of harassment within a particular company, which is affecting numerous consumers. The FTC noted that in 2006 it only brought one suit and settled two others.
The FDCPA gives you rights, which can be enforced in state and federal courts of law. Though not an exhaustive list, the FTC categorizes the areas of abuse as follows:
– Demanding Larger Payment Than Permitted by Law – Harassing the Alleged Debtor or Others – Threatening Dire Consequences if the Consumer Fails to Pay – Impermissible Calls to Consumer’s Place of Employment – Revealing Alleged Debt to Third Parties – Failing to Send Required Consumer Notice
– Failing to Verify Disputed Debts – Continuing to Contact Consumer After Receiving “Cease Communication” Notice – Complaints About Creditors’ In-House Collectors
Though it is important to report abusive debt collectors, it is unlikely that you will receive any relief from the FTC. Consequently, you have two options as we see it, pay the debt collector or contact a consumer attorney. (One other option is to file bankruptcy, though we only recommend this as a last resort after discussing your rights with a consumer attorney) The FDCPA specifically allows for you to sue under the act for the abusive practice listed above.
Another resource for you is to join our Facebook Fan Page – Alabama Consumer Protection Attorneys where we share useful information about the same types of issues that we cover in this blog.