What is the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act?
The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, Florida Statutes §559.55 et seq. (“FCCPA”) is a Florida statute intended to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive collection activities, and provides for both regulatory enforcement as well as private cause of action. The FCCPA is very similar to its Federal counterpart, the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), accordingly, that federal interpretations of the FDCPA are given “due consideration and great weight” by Florida courts interpreting the FCCPA. 2010 Fla. Sess. L. Serv. at § 559.77(5).
While the FCCPA and FDCPA are similar in their purpose and statutory framework, there are significant differences between the two. The biggest distinction is that the FCCPA is broader in its application of the prohibited acts, the FDCPA only applies to “debt collectors,” the FCCPA applies to all “persons.” Additionally, the FCCPA has a two-year statute of limitations while the FDCPA has a one-year statute of limitations.
In section 559.72, Fla. Stat., the FCCPA provides that in collecting consumer debts, no person shall engage in any of the following activities:
Simulate in any manner a law enforcement officer or a representative of any governmental agency.
Use or threaten force or violence.
Tell a debtor who disputes a consumer debt that she or he or any person employing her or him will disclose to another, orally or in writing, directly or indirectly, information affecting the debtor’s reputation for credit worthiness without also informing the debtor that the existence of the dispute will also be disclosed as required by subsection (6).
Communicate or threaten to communicate with a debtor’s employer before obtaining final judgment against the debtor, unless the debtor gives her or his permission in writing to contact her or his employer or acknowledges in writing the existence of the debt after the debt has been placed for collection. However, this does not prohibit a person from telling the debtor that her or his employer will be contacted if a final judgment is obtained.
Disclose to a person other than the debtor or her or his family information affecting the debtor’s reputation, whether or not for credit worthiness, with knowledge or reason to know that the other person does not have a legitimate business need for the information or that the information is false.
Disclose information concerning the existence of a debt known to be reasonably disputed by the debtor without disclosing that fact. If a disclosure is made before such dispute has been asserted and written notice is received from the debtor that any part of the debt is disputed, and if such dispute is reasonable, the person who made the original disclosure must reveal upon the request of the debtor within 30 days the details of the dispute to each person to whom disclosure of the debt without notice of the dispute was made within the preceding 90 days.
Willfully communicate with the debtor or any member of her or his family with such frequency as can reasonably be expected to harass the debtor or her or his family, or willfully engage in other conduct which can reasonably be expected to abuse or harass the debtor or any member of her or his family.
Use profane, obscene, vulgar, or willfully abusive language in communicating with the debtor or any member of her or his family.
Claim, attempt, or threaten to enforce a debt when such person knows that the debt is not legitimate, or assert the existence of some other legal right when such person knows that the right does not exist.
Use a communication that simulates in any manner legal or judicial process or that gives the appearance of being authorized, issued, or approved by a government, governmental agency, or attorney at law, when it is not.
Communicate with a debtor under the guise of an attorney by using the stationery of an attorney or forms or instruments that only attorneys are authorized to prepare.
Orally communicate with a debtor in a manner that gives the false impression or appearance that such person is or is associated with an attorney.
Advertise or threaten to advertise for sale any debt as a means to enforce payment except under court order or when acting as an assignee for the benefit of a creditor.
Publish or post, threaten to publish or post, or cause to be published or posted before the general public individual names or any list of names of debtors, commonly known as a deadbeat list, for the purpose of enforcing or attempting to enforce collection of consumer debts.
Refuse to provide adequate identification of herself or himself or her or his employer or other entity whom she or he represents if requested to do so by a debtor from whom she or he is collecting or attempting to collect a consumer debt.
Mail any communication to a debtor in an envelope or postcard with words typed, written, or printed on the outside of the envelope or postcard calculated to embarrass the debtor. An example of this would be an envelope addressed to “Deadbeat, Jane Doe” or “Deadbeat, John Doe.”
Communicate with the debtor between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. in the debtor’s time zone without the prior consent of the debtor.
If a debt collector or a collection agency violates any of the above referenced prohibitions, then the consumer may file a lawsuit against them an obtain as much as $1,000.00 plus court costs and attorney’s fees. Moreover, under the FCCPA a debtor may also be permitted to punitive damages.
Brendan A. Sweeney, Esq. of Sweeney Law, P.A., The Florida Debt Warrior, fights for consumer justice, one case at a time. If you have been struggling with debt and are being harassed by bill collectors then please contact Sweeney Law, P.A. to immediately to protect your rights.