Fort Lauderdale Debt Collection Harassment Lawyer
If you have had an overdue bill sent to collections before, you know what a pain it is to deal with collection agencies. Did you know that you have very clear rights about what debt collectors can and cannot do? Sweeney Law, P.A. can help you identify illegal debt collection practices and stop the harassment, contact our experienced Fort Lauderdale debt collection lawyers today.
FDCPA & FCCPA: Debtor Rights
You have a right to fair debt collection. Both the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) outline very strict statutes on what is fair and what isn’t. If you are experiencing one of the following scenarios, you may be entitled to a statuary compensation and recover actual damages and even attorney fees. Debt collectors are not allowed to:
- Call too frequently.
- Contact you at work.
- Call you before 8 A.M or after 9 P.M.
- Use profane, obscene, or vulgar language.
- Pretend to someone associated with the government or law.
- Directly or indirectly disclose any information to anyone besides the debtor and his family.
- Contact you directly when aware that you have an attorney.
- Adding additional collection fees or charges to the debt.
- Attempting to collect more than you owe.
- Attempting to collect a debt that is not legitimate.
- Threatening wage garnishment, repossession, or arrest.
“Debt Collectors” aren’t just collection agencies. The FCCPA requires credit card companies, cell phone companies, apartment complexes, auto loan companies, healthcare companies, hospitals, or any entity with which you have a financial obligation to follow these guidelines.
If you are being harassed in any way, it’s time to get help from a debt collector harassment lawyer. To assist us in your case, save any letters, texts, or voicemails, keep a log of the phone calls you receive and the numbers they call you from, and make notes of any conversations you have had with debt collectors.
Important Things to Know about the FDCPA
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a powerful tool consumers can use to stop the harassing, annoying and threatening conduct of bill collectors who are trying to collect a debt, regardless of whether that debt is valid or in dispute. While the FDCPA can be very useful to stop harassment and even recover money damages for unlawful activity on the part of collection agencies, there are important things you need to know about what the FDCPA can and can’t accomplish. Read on to learn more about the FDCPA, and call Sweeney Law, P.A.to stop unfair debt collection in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties with the help of an experienced and dedicated Fort Lauderdale consumer law attorney.
The FDCPA only Applies to Debt Collection Agencies and not the Original Creditor
The FDCPA applies to “debt collectors.” A debt collector appears on the scene when the original party you owed money to (bank, car dealership, utility, phone company, furniture store, etc.) hires a third party to collect the debt on its behalf, or sells/assigns the debt to that third party. Since the debt collector is in the business of collecting debts and has no personal business relationship with you, debt collectors are more likely to use less scrupulous or more harassing or threatening means to collect from you. The FDCPA was designed to stop the most annoying, embarrassing or intimidating practices of debt collectors (also known as bill collectors or collection agencies), and to provide a means to hold them accountable through civil lawsuits when they break the law.
The FDCPA only applies to the original creditor in limited circumstances, such as when the creditor goes under a different name to try to collect the debt. However, Florida’s fair debt collection law, the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA), does apply equally to the original creditor as well as third party debt collectors. If the original creditor is the one engaging in harassing or threatening conduct, call Sweeney Law, P.A. for assistance pursuing a claim under the FCCPA.
New Regulations may Expand the Scope of the FDCPA
In 2010 Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and this law created the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB). Although created primarily to take on predatory lending, mortgage disclosures and credit discrimination in home buying, the CFPB has already expanded into many areas of consumer protection, such as payday loan debt traps.
The CFPB seems ready to take on debt collection as well and may enact regulations expanding the scope of the FDCPA. The FDCPA was enacted in 1977 and has never had an agency with rulemaking authority over it until now. The CFPB currently has abundant information on debt collection on its website and has issued a proposed regulation (Regulation F) to expand the coverage of the FDCPA. Some highlights of the proposed regulation include:
- Focus on medical and health debt, credit card debt, telecommunications debt and student loan debt
- Require notification that a debt has been sold or placed with a third party for collection
- Require debt collectors to make sure they collect the correct debt
- Further limit excessive or disruptive communications from debt collectors
- Make it easier to understand the details of a debt and the ability to dispute it
- Allow the consumer to demand documentation of the debt
- Prohibit a debt collector from transferring a disputed debt, or prohibiting a new debt buyer from collecting on a disputed debt
How the FCCPA Supplements the FDCPA
If you have been looking for relief from unlawful harassment by creditors and bill collectors, you have probably become aware of the Fair Dept Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and may have educated yourself on important things to know about the FDCPA. The FDCPA is a federal law that limits the activities of collection agencies and gives consumers the ability to sue bill collectors when their rights under the law have been violated.
Even if you know about the FDCPA, you may not know about the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA). The FCCPA is Florida’s version of the FDCPA, but it is not just a replica of the federal law. The FCCPA is actually broader than the FDCPA in some critical areas. Learn more about the FCCPA below and how it supplements the FDCPA. To put a stop to unlawful collection activity and recover money damages for any harm caused by creditor harassment, call Sweeney Law, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale.
Florida Consumer Protection Applies to the Original Creditor
The FDCPA only applies to bill collectors or collection agencies. These are companies who have been hired by the original creditor to collect the debt for the creditor, or who have purchased the debt from the original creditor and are free to collect it on their own if they can. The original creditor or loan originator is not covered by the FDCPA and cannot be sued for actions which would otherwise violate the protections of the FDCPA.
The FCCPA, on the other hand, applies to all creditors, including the original creditor. If a car dealership finance company, electronics or appliance store, cell phone store, credit union or credit card company is violating the terms of the FCCPA, you may be able to sue for damages in a Florida court.
Florida Allows Punitive Damages against Violators of the FCCPA
Both the FDCPA and the FCCPA allow a consumer to recover actual damages (the actual economic harm caused by the unlawful practices) along with $1,000 per claim and attorney’s fees and costs. Additionally, punitive damages are allowed under the FCCPA when it can be shown the creditor or collection agency acted maliciously. Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant for especially bad or outrageous behavior, and to send a message to other potential violators of the law that society simply will not tolerate such conduct. Punitive damage awards are not tied to the actual damages suffered but are awarded by a jury based on the level of misconduct and the size of the company. Although punitive damages are typically harder to get than other types of damages, at Sweeney Law, P.A., we do not shrink from a fight; our experienced courtroom litigator will pursue punitive damages whenever appropriate.
Stop Unfair Debt Collection and Recover Money Damages
If you are being constantly harassed, annoyed or threatened by bill collectors or creditors, or if they are embarrassing you by showing up at your work or sending postcards in the mail, you can do something about it. Call Sweeney Law, P.A. for help from an experienced Fort Lauderdale debt collection lawyer working to stop unfair debt collection practices in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties. Request a consultation and stop the harassment: call 954-440-3993.