What Is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?


The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law initially passed in 1978 to protect consumers and regulate the tactics used by debt collectors.

know your rights

If you have had debt collectors hounding you over a debt, it is imperative that you know what your rights are as outlined in the FDCPA.

The FDCPA is what you will be using to protect you against third-party debt collectors and their unfair debt collection practices. The FDCPA allows you to fight back against them.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a powerful tool to get debt collectors out of your life and collection accounts removed from your credit report. It also allows you to sue them in small claims court for violating your consumer rights.

Rights Guaranteed to Consumers Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

One of the main tools given to consumers in the FDCPA is the right to debt validation. Any time you are contacted about a debt you aren’t sure you owe, you may send a debt validation letter to the debt collector.

This letter puts the burden of proof on your creditors to show you the details about any debt you may owe.

The FDCPA specifies when and how frequently a debt collection agency may contact you. It also covers what they are permitted to say when they’re talking to you.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Violations

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) outlines what debt collection companies can and cannot do. For example, a third-party debt collector may not do any of the following while attempting to collect a debt:

  • Attempt to collect more than the debt you owe. Some debt collectors attempt to tack on additional fees that are not detailed in your original lending agreement, which is illegal.
  • Call repeatedly at all times of the day. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from calling you before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m., or at other times when they know it would be inconvenient for you.
  • Use abusive or intimidating language. The FDCPA protects you from abusive debt collection practices. Making insults or threats of physical violence over the phone violates the FDCPA.
  • Inform outside individuals of the debt you owe. Debt collectors can only share details of your debts with legal advisors and close family members, such as a spouse or parent (if you are under 18). Also, a debt collector may only contact outside sources to locate you, but they may only contact the outside source once.
  • Ignore your debt validation request. Debt collectors must not continue to attempt to collect debts after they receive a debt validation letter. They must respond to the letter before continuing collection attempts.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Complaints

Despite the protections guaranteed by the FDCPA, debt collectors violate the law regularly. According to the FTC’s annual report, more than 100,000 complaints were filed against third-party debt collectors.

The following were the primary complaints against debt collection agencies:

  • Harassing the alleged debtor or others.
  • Demanding a larger payment than is permitted by law.
  • 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 provide verification of the debt that’s being disputed.
  • Continuing to contact a consumer after receiving “cease communication” notice.

If a debt collector has attempted any of the behaviors listed above with you, they have broken the law and should pay the price. You can inform the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of any violations by submitting a complaint. You may also consider contacting your state attorney general’s office.

Suing a Debt Collector, Original Creditor, or Credit Bureau in Small Claims Court

As previously mentioned, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows you to sue a debt collector in state or federal court and win money. As an informed consumer who knows your rights, it’s essential to keep them honest by taking legal action against them when your rights have been violated. Each FDCPA violation is a $1,000 fine that is rewarded to you.

Suing debt collectors can help bring about change and make other people’s lives easier. The more people who sue them, the more likely they will stop breaking the law. If everyone took action when debt collectors violated their rights, these companies would lose a fortune in legal disputes.

Reasons for Suing the Original Creditor

  • They’re reporting inaccurate information on your credit report.
  • After you dispute the debt, they fail to report as “disputed”.
  • They pull your credit report without permissible purpose.

Reasons for Suing a Credit Bureau

  • They refuse to correct information after being provided proof.
  • They re-report an item that’s been removed from your credit report without notifying you in writing within five days.
  • The consumer reporting agency fails to respond to your written dispute within 30 days (a 15-day extension may be granted if they receive information from the creditor within the first 30 days).

Reasons for Suing a Debt Collector

  • The debt collector tries to be both the purchaser of an account or the assignee. It’s one or the other.
  • They misrepresent themselves or the debt they are attempting to collect on.
  • The debt collector tries to re-age your account by updating the date of last activity on your credit report to keep negative information on your account longer.
  • The debt collector fails to report a disputed debt to the credit bureaus.
  • They do not validate a debt yet continue collection activity by filing for a judgment. Debt collectors are also not allowed to call or write to you while the debt is in the validation process.
  • They still call you even after you’ve sent them a cease and desist letter.
  • The debt collector continues to report a debt to the credit bureaus that they have not validated.
  • They call you before 8 am or after 9 pm or if they call you at work.
  • The debt collector calls your friends, neighbors, relatives, or any third party about your debt. They can only communicate with your attorney, credit reporting agency, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.
  • The debt collector harasses you or uses abusive language.
  • They threaten to garnish your wages.

There are other reasons that you can sue a creditor, credit bureau, or debt collection agency. Seek legal advice or work with a credit repair company if you believe they are violating your rights.

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Lauren Ward
Meet the author

Lauren is a personal finance writer who strives to equip readers with the knowledge to achieve their financial objectives. She has over a decade of experience and a Bachelor's degree in Japanese from Georgetown University.