Collection Harassment ClaimsCollections Training Resource
July 3, 2012 — 1,105 views
Debt collection is a serious problem around the world. Ever since the invention of credit cards, it has become easy to accumulate massive debt that accrues significant interest over time. A visit from a debt collector is no pleasant experience, but sometimes, people could experience unwarranted collection harassment. In response, the federal government has developed legislation to deal with these situations.
Common Collection Harassment Claims
To understand the government's position, first examine some of the most common collection harassment claims. Threats are probably the most widespread issue. For example, most debt collectors have no legal authority. Any criminal proceedings are normally turned over to law enforcement officials who are trained to apprehend debtors. Therefore, telling a person they will go to jail if they do not pay could be construed as an unwarranted threat, and therefore qualify as harassment due to the added stress and fear it can provoke.
Collection agents are also bound by laws similar to those affecting telemarketers. They are not allowed to call debtors before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. and cannot discuss monetary issues with family, friends or coworkers. Additionally, frequent calling at short intervals is considered another form of harassment. People in debt are under enough stress - as such, engaging in hostile collection tactics is not permitted.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) established restrictions on the behavior of debt collectors, some of which are outlined above. Specifically, collectors cannot use profane language, make threats of any kind or repeatedly use the phone to annoy someone. In addition, they cannot publish any private information or release a list of people who are still in debt.
Defending against claims
Attorneys who represent debt collectors should be able to prove that proper collection techniques were followed. The best way to support this is by providing transcripts of phone calls. As long as debtors know that the conversation will be recorded in advance, lawyers can use that evidence to prove that inappropriate language or threats weren't used.
In terms of precedent, a federal judge can require a debt collector to pay a maximum of $1,000 to a plaintiff, even if the person cannot actually prove a damage claim. They can also be reimbursed for court fees and legal costs. In addition, class action lawsuits can be filed for a maximum of $500,000 or up to one percent of a debt collector's total net worth - whichever is higher.