An Outline of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was enforced in 1978 as part of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. The mission of the FDCPA is to protect consumers against abusive debt collection as well as provide consumers with fair debt collection processes. There are many enforced regulations as well as practices that are ruled against.

The Federal Trade Commission states that there are rules to be followed for those who are locating information about the consumer.

Acquisition of location information (excerpt from section 804)

Any debt collector communicating with any person other than the consumer for the purpose of acquiring location information about the consumer shall —

(1) identify himself, state that he is confirming or correcting location information concerning the consumer, and, only if expressly requested, identify his employer;

(2) not state that such consumer owes any debt;

(3) not communicate with any such person more than once unless requested to do so by such person or unless the debt collector reasonably believes that the earlier response of such person is erroneous or incomplete and that such person now has correct or complete location information.

Harassment and abuse (excerpt from section 806)

A debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:

(1) The use or threat of use of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person.

(2) The use of obscene or profane language or language the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader.

(5) Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.

Proving FDCPA Violation

One of the best things to do is to contact an FDCPA attorney if you truly feel that a debt collector is in violation. They can better advise you of how to go about proving your case (if you even have a case) and most will at least offer you a free initial consultation.

In addition, you should make it a practice to keep all documents and any correspondence that you can from debt collectors and try to get as much communication as you can in writing so that it will be easier for you to prove your case. Also, if you need to mail a letter to a debt collector for any reason, it is recommended to send it by certified U.S. mail (possibly even with a return receipt for added proof of delivery).

In addition, you should strongly consider recording the phone calls. But be advised that this is illegal in some States to record calls without the other party’s consent – so you can check if that’s the case in your State – or as a general rule, just always let the other party know that the call is being recorded. Even if you can’t catch them in violation this way, a debt collector is far less likely to “act up” if they know that you’re recording the conversation.

In Conclusion

If a debt collection agency is in violation of any of these acts there are serious consequences. It is very important that a debt collection agency abides by the law.

The government has enforced many regulations and acts in order to protect the rights of consumers. It is important to enforce fair practices regarding debt collection processes so that consumers are protected and aware of their rights.

As a consumer facing debt issues, it is very important to know your rights. Because if you don’t know your rights, then you have no rights.

So be sure to visit the FTC website for the Complete Outline of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

43 thoughts on “An Outline of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

  1. Global adaptation of these guidelines or this act should be done. This is something that everyone should be aware of, not just for the consumers to know their rights (which by the way is highly valuable in their cases) but also for the debt collectors to be educated on how to handle consumers; because ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

    1. Any legitimate and professional debt collector should already be aware of these laws – else they wouldn’t and should be in business. It’s those shady debt collectors that try to hard-nose, skate under the law and take a debtor’s ignorance for a weakness that pose a problem. A lot of debt collectors will try to take advantage of you if they see you don’t know what’s up. Well now you don’t have any reason not to know.

  2. FDCPA was enacted only to protect Consumer rights is only half the truth. It is, in fact, in place to protect compliant debt collectors from the abusive lot. And Defaulters, please don’t be encouraged by the tone of the article. It is to protect the rights of the consumer against abusive debt collectors, not to enhance your legal jargon repertoire for negotiations with fair debt collectors and play the victim card.

    1. I never wrote anything saying that this is for debtors to play the victims card. I’m just making people aware of this FTC act and that there is a certain conduct that debt collectors must follow while attempting to collect a debt. I didn’t write these laws; they FTC did. And like the heading on their sites says, they are specifically focused on “Protect America’s Consumers”.

  3. The FDCPA provides very relevant and important information to US citizens as it provides proper protection for consumers who have incurred debt – so basically for a lot of people. Keeping people aware of this act is key as some people may not even know that these rights exist.

  4. The state is fully involved and enforces federal consumer protection laws where I live and it clearly stats and that include laws relevant to debt collection and they must behave responsibly or pay a heavy penalty if found dealing with slightest misconduct in collection of debts. In fact, a wide range of activities are involved and followed strictly by creditors to recover their money but they have to follow the rules strictly.

  5. This makes me think, so there is this Debt Collecting Act, now who would do the monitoring and how? We know that it is quite easy nowadays to acquire personal information through the internet whether as a debt collector or as an individual.

    1. Hello HiGbreeze, thank you for your comment. Please read the “Proving FDCPA Violation” in the article above that we just added on your behalf. Hope this helps and thanks for visiting.

  6. I find this somewhat contradictory: “The debt collector may not… state that the consumer owes any debt” BUT “They must also state who they are and that they are communicating to locate information about the consumer” AND “The debt collection company may also not use any language on any form of communication to show that they are in the debt collection business.” So, in other words, they cannot say someone owes them money but must identify themselves, hmmm. Perhaps someone could clear that up. Nevertheless, the article was informative. Recently, I was watching a movie where, as I have now learned, the debt collector ‘broke the law.’

    1. Hi Jerry, sorry for the confusion. That portion of the article has been revised to include exact quotes for the act. Hopefully it makes more sense to you now. Also be sure to review the complete guide at the FTC website linked above.

  7. This is a very important information , glad they came out with something like this .My brother used to work at a Lending/Financing firm They were really instructed to be tough with their clients who are delinquent in payments .Its mentally and emotionally stressing them out.But i guess it takes 2 to tango .. Respect both rights instead

  8. The debt collectors should and always abide by the law. Although, there are many collection agencies who has secret schemes on finding their way around these laws. I think and I would suggest that they monitor each collector agent so as not to violate any of the laws.

  9. This is indeed a very relevant and valuable act. However, in a world where almost everybody believes that customers are always right, it is often forgotten about the rights of the creditors. The act aims to protect the rights of the consumers against the abusive collection. But every right has its limit, right? What if it’s the other way around? The act states: “Harassment and abuse are violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If a debt collection company is using violence against the consumer, their reputation or their property, this will be in violation of the act.” What if the customers tend to abuse their rights, what kind of protection does the creditors get? What if the consumers are the ones who violate despite the due processes being enforced by the creditors to bring into line to the act?

    1. Cases will be investigated and everything must be proven. It’s not simply pointing the finger and someone instantly gets in trouble.

  10. Although I perfectly understand this thing about the use of obscene language and the prohibition of harassment, how can anyone determine these particular issues?

    So far, the way in which people communicates with each other has changed so much that some words or phrases that didn’t represent an offensive some years ago, now can also be considered as an insult.

    Furthermore, the harassment issue is also quite ambiguous, to the point in which there are moments in which the debtor might say he´s not harassing, while the other person can actually feel harassed.

    1. It’s a thin line. But usually things are clear cut when debt collectors start cursing at a debtor or making false threats like threatening to throw you in jail or something. The best I can tell you is to take time to read the full Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (linked above) for better understanding (particularly section 806: Harassment or abuse). This will help you determine if you truly believe that you have been violated. From there it will determined by the FTC and legal authorities if this is truly the case. Everything must be confirmed and proven just like any legal case.

  11. My sister-in-law experienced frantic calls from a debt collector before. I thought it was just a normal thing for debt collectors but upon reading this, I realized that these agencies were going way overboard. I’m glad a law like this exist in America. I suppose every country must provide this kind of law and educate people regarding their rights as a consumer. Every action must undergo a legal process without harassing consumers.

    1. I’m not sure about other countries, but you’re right, every country should have some consumer protection in place – especially for debt collection issues.

  12. Interestingly, the FDCPA is not just protecting the consumers but also debt collectors who are doing their jobs the right way. When other debt collectors resort to abuse or harassment, it just isn’t fair to anyone. It’s always best to settle money matters like these in a decent manner.

  13. This is an interesting and informative article with helpful links. I am curious to how a consumer should deal with or go about reporting a debt collecting agency that has crossed the legal line. This may prove difficult and impossible if they cannot identify themselves or their purpose over the phone. A follow up article on this subject would be beneficial.

    1. Well if they can’t identify themselves or their purpose that would be very odd and really would make no sense on their part – especially if they’re trying to collect their money.

  14. I was quite disappointed to open the ftc site and see its slogan; I would expect, or hope rather, for this guideline to be globally recognized. FDCPA clearly expects a professional behaviour from debt collectors, which is a great law for both parties, really — the debt collector and the debtor. This way, the debt collector preserves a sense of pride for his profession and the debtor is not harassed.

    1. Hi Tika, thank you for you comments. The FTC protects America’s consumers. Perhaps there’s a similar agency or law in your country as well. It’s worth checking.

  15. A valuable read. This will help debtors know about state laws that protect them from debt collection harassment. And for debt collectors to constantly be reminded of what they can and cannot do.

  16. The existence of the act does not automatically guarantee the protection of consumer rights. Consumers’ awareness of the specific clauses of the act is key to promoting the provisions of the act in consumers’ favor. Since regulations are very specialized documents, consumers often do not concern themselves to learn about the provisions laid out in them. The Govt. should partner with community organizations or legal clinics to run campaigns to make consumers aware of their rights under the act.

  17. Two things seem rather vague to me about these regulations. First of all, what would violence against a person’s reputation consist of, and secondly, what number or range would be used to delineate an obscene amount of phone calls?

    1. Hi Michele, review section § 806. Harassment or abuse of the act. That gives some examples. The scope of the act is too detailed to cover in the scope of this article. This is just an introduction. All the intricate details and scenarios can be reviewed in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (link bottom of article).

  18. The FDCPA is a great resource to have in place, but it does little good for the average consumer who doesn’t know it exists. If people aren’t aware of their rights by law they won’t know when debt collectors are in violation. The article states that calling a debtor an obscene amount of times is prohibited. What constitutes an “obscene” amount of calls in a day from a single number? More than three times? More than five? Ten? If the calls are consistently broken up over a week does that still count towards being an obscene amount? Most consumers don’t know how much is too much and collectors often take advantage of their ignorance.

    1. Hi Kara, that’s why there’s a link to the full scope of the act at the bottom of this article. All he information is there, debtors who are really concerned about their rights need to take time to read and review it – or review it with their personal financial advisor or legal representative.

  19. This was super helpful! I always assumed debt collectors were aloud to harass you in whatever way they wanted because you owed them. I’ll definitely be watching for these actions now. Thank you!

  20. FDCPA is a very good way to protect consumers. It must be introduced to many developing countries and be made transparent to consumers. In this way, consumers , especially students and small time business holders will be alert of such a protection for them and will not be harassed or abused by debt collecting companies.

  21. This is of course very interesting and needed, but I didn`t quite understand what are those serious consequences that debt collection agency will face. The biggest problem, I think, is that its hard to see the full picture of the real consequenqueces of misleading the law. And its also interesting to me, how such companies are gonna work at all, it seems like they are prohibited to do what they are actualy payed to do – to comunicate to the debtors about their debts to some company…

    1. Communicating to debtors about their debt is one thing. Harassing a debtor e.g. cursing at them, making false legal threats, etc. is an entirely different story and in a nutshell debt collectors can be sued or pay big fines for this type of conduct.

  22. In as much as debt-collecting is a staple in the role of consumer creditors, I’m glad to know that they have etiquette and how they go about it when dealing with people who are either relatives or acquaintances of the consumer they wish to inform about debt settlement. I also now feel secure that there are boundaries as to how much information they can acquire about us consumers and how they go about it.

  23. I can’t even imagine that debt collection agencies can maintain solid contact with consumers because of disposable cell phones. Some people seem to change phone numbers every year or two and don’t port their phone number. In this case, the debt collector then must begin the location process all over again. Especially, when debtors are in transient communities or housing situations.

  24. Debt Collecting companies are always one of tricky business, because these kind of business always in close contact to law, from the both side of client and the company.
    I personally think, these kind of rule is needed and important for protecting client – company relationship from any future unwanted event, especially with things like lawsuit.
    I hope my government consider adding these kind of law to my country, considering in my country most of the client is the one getting abused by the debt collecting company.

  25. Now might be the time to instate some new laws concerning debt collection. People owe what they owe, yes, but the younger generation is more in-debt than any generation before them.

  26. i think this article is very useful for students who are in debt of student loans. it is important for them to know their rights and privacy, since mots of the student loans are unregulated and banks can charge whatever amount they want.

  27. I think students who are in debt with student loans should read this one. It is very important for them to know their rights and privacy, since most of the student loans is unregulated and banks can charge whatever they want.

  28. This is really important information to all people with credit/debt from loan/lending agencies. It emphasizes the importance of the privacy and rights of a person in debt especially confidential information collection. Hope this is implemented in other countries especially developing ones.

    1. Yes Alyssa, there really needs to be debt collection rights and protection for everyone on a Global scale if there’s not already.

  29. This is especially useful information for new businesses thinking of setting up payment methods. Thank goodness there is such a policy like FDVPA looking out for us consumers. We all need to know our rights!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *