Debtor rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

When consumers in Minnesota fall behind on debt, they risk getting turned over to collections, and they may get numerous calls from debt collectors. Some debt collection agencies make reasonable collection attempts, but others do not. Debt collectors cannot do whatever they want; they have to follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

The basics of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Congress passed the FDCPA in 1970 to limit how much information debt collectors release and how they collect it. The FDCPA includes third-party collectors of medical debt, credit card debt and mortgages but not collection attempts by the original lender. For example, a local car dealership making collection attempts does not fall under this law.

Debt collectors may contact the debtor at home, but the FDCPA restricts call times to between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. unless the debtor gives consent outside of those hours. A collector cannot make empty threats of legal action, use profane language, cash a post-dated check, list debts for public sale, attempt to collect more than the current debt or call constantly. They must identify themselves, state the debt amount, send a validation letter and tell the debtor what may legally happen if the amount is not paid.

How a debtor can stop calls and dispute debt

A debtor may stop the contact with a written letter to the agency. However, they should be aware this does not prohibit the collector from using other collection methods. The agency could also still file a lawsuit against the debtor.

If a debtor does not get the validation letter within five days of the first attempt, they may request it. The debtor can dispute the debt within 30 days of getting the validation letter. The collector must send the requested information and cannot contact the debtor until they send the information.

Debtors can file complaints under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act with the Federal Trade Commission or their local state agency. If the debt collectors don’t stop, the debtor may sue them for violating the law.