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Consumer Protection Research Guide

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

The FDCPA dictates the permitted conduct and collection acts that debt collectors can use. Passed in 1977, the Act is intended to "eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to insure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and to promote consistent State action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses." 15 U.S.C. § 1692(e). The Act is primarily enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. 15 U.S.C. § 1692l(a).

Who is regulated by Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?

In general, only collection agencies and, in some cases, attorneys are regulated by the FDCPA. Creditors collecting their own debts generally are not covered by the FDCPA. 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(4), (6).

Can a collection agency or attorney collecting debt contact me at anytime?

The FDCPA restricts the times and places a debt collector may contact a consumer, limits third party contacts, and prohibits contacting a consumer represented by an attorney. 15 U.S.C. § 1692c. However, this protection may be waived by prior consent or court order. 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(a). A debt collector cannot contact a consumer regarding debt collection "at any unusual time or place or a time or place known or which should be known as inconvenient to the consumer." 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(a)(1). A debt collector must assume that the convenient time for communicating with a consumer is after 8:00 a.m. and before 9:00 p.m. local time at the consumer's location. 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(a)(1). Debt collectors are also not allowed to contact you at work regarding a debt. 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(a)(3).

Who can a debt collector speak with about my debt?

Except for closely regulated efforts to locate a consumer, a debt collector may not phone, write, or visit a consumer's employer, relatives (except spouse), friends or neighbors about a debt. 15 U.S.C. § 1692b; Kleczy v. First Federal Credit Control, Inc., 486 N.E.2d 204, 207 (Ohio App. 1984). However, this protection may be waived by prior consent or court order. 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(a).

How can I stop debt collectors from harassing me about my debt?

The FDCPA requires collection agencies and attorneys to stop contacting consumers after a written request asking the collector to cease collection contacts or stating the debt is not owed. 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(c). Consumers can also complain to Consumer Protection agencies. A complaint letter can be sent to the Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Washington D.C. 20580 as long as the creditor is not a bank. See 15 U.S.C. §1692l(b). Copies of the complaint should also be sent to the state attorney general's office, bureau of consumer protection in the state capital, and to any local consumer protection office.

What can I do if a debt collector wants me to pay for an item that I received but did not order?

A section of the Postal Reorganization Act (PRA) prohibits merchants from billing or dunning for unordered, mailed merchandise. 39 U.S.C. § 3009. It establishes that recipient of unordered mailed merchandise the right to treat it as a gift.


Last revised: 21 October 2008

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