Debt collectors have a long history of being abusive, deceptive, and careless. California consumers are turning to class action lawsuits to help them win compensation from debt collectors who engage in harassment, who persist in trying to make them pay debts that they do not owe, and who threaten to ruin credit, reputations, or financial security.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that regulates debt collection agencies. The FDCPA protects consumers from unfair or abusive debt collection practices. When debt collectors violate the FDCPA, affected consumers are entitled to a financial remedy. Consumers can recover up to $1,000 for each intentional violation of the FDCPA, as well as compensation for actual harms they suffered.
The FDCPA attorneys in California at The Haeggquist and Eck Firm represent consumers in class action lawsuits against debt collection agencies that violate the FDCPA. Class action lawsuits force collection agencies to take claims seriously. In most cases, debt collectors settle rather than facing the risk and expense of bringing a class action lawsuit to trial.
Debt collectors violate the FDCPA in California in many ways. The most common violations are described below.
FDCPA First Contact Violations
The first contact a debt collector makes (whether by telephone, mail, or in person) must notify you that the contact is for the purpose of collecting a debt. The debt collector must also:
- Identify himself or herself by name.
- Identify the agency that employs the debt collector.
- Identify the creditor.
- Describe the debt.
- Advise you that any information you provide will be used for the purpose of collecting the debt.
Advise you of your right to dispute the debt within 30 days.
If you dispute the debt, any further collection activity must stop until the debt collector verifies that the debt is valid. Debt collectors violate the FCPA when they fail to provide the information described above or when they attempt to collect a disputed and unverified debt.
FDCPA Telephone Collection Violations
A debt collector who contacts you by telephone may violate the FDCPA in any of the following ways:
- Calling at an inconvenient time. Any call after 9:00 p.m. and before 8:00 a.m. is presumed to be inconvenient unless you told the debt collector otherwise. However, if the debt collector knows that you work at night and sleep during the day, a call during daytime hours violates the FDCPA.
- Allowing the telephone to ring continuously if you do not answer.
- Calling repeatedly in a way that would annoy a reasonable person.
- Calling you at work if the debt collector knows that your employer prohibits personal calls (or calls from debt collectors).
- Continuing to call after you notify the collection agency in writing not to call you.
FDCPA Mail Violations
A debt collector who contacts you by mail may not place any information on the envelope that identifies the letter as coming from a debt collector. Debt collectors may not contact you by postcard. If someone who looks at your unopened mail can see that the mail is from a debt collector, the collection agency violated the FDCPA.
FDCPA Harassment or Abuse Violations
A debt collector violates the FDCPA by harassing or abusing debtors. Examples of harassment or abuse include:
- Using or threatening violence, including threats to harm persons, property, or pets.
- Using obscene or abusive language.
- Shouting, screaming, or taunting.
- Contacting you in person at an inconvenient time or place.
- Publishing your name on a list of individuals who do not pay their bills.
- Advertising your debt for sale in order to coerce its payment.
FDCPA Violations Involving Misrepresentations
A debt collector violates the FDCPA by telling a lie or using deception to induce the payment of a debt. Examples of misrepresentations and misleading representations that the FDCPA prohibits include:
- Claiming to be employed by a law enforcement agency.
- Claiming to be working for the government if that claim is untrue.
- Claiming to be an attorney if that claim is untrue.
- Claiming that nonpayment of a debt is a crime or that you can be imprisoned for nonpayment.
- Threatening to take any action the debt collector does not intend to take (such as starting a lawsuit if the debt collector does not intend to do so).
- Claiming that nonpayment will result in liability for additional expenses (such as interest or fees) if those expenses cannot legally be charged.
- Providing you with documents that appear to be legal process (such as a document entitled “Summons”) if the document has not actually been issued by a court or filed in a court proceeding.
If you’ve experienced any of the above, speaking with an FDCA attorney is in your best interest. The Haeggquist and Eck Firm provides free case evaluations and does not charge their clients unless the case is won.
FDCPA Unfair Collection Practices
A debt collector may not use unfair practices to collect a debt. Examples of unfair practices include:
- Making contact with you after being notified that an attorney is representing you concerning the debt.
- Telling your employer or other third parties that you owe a debt.
- Trying to get you to pay more than the creditor is legally entitled to collect.
- Depositing or threatening to deposit a postdated check before the date on the check.
- Accepting a check that is postdated by more than five days without notifying you in writing that the debt collector intends to deposit the check no sooner than three days, and no later than ten days, after the notice is given.
- Soliciting a postdated check for the purpose of threatening or commencing a criminal prosecution.
- Causing you to pay fees for communications (such as the cost of collect calls) without revealing in advance that the communication is for the purpose of collecting a debt.
- Threatening to engage in “self-help” repossession (that is, taking property without a court order) when “self-help” repossession is not allowed by law, when there is no lien on the property, when the debt collector does not intend to do so, or when a law makes the property exempt from seizure.
Class Action Remedies
A debt collection agency that violates the FDCPA when it contacts you is probably using the same illegal tactics when it contacts other debtors. When consumers come together to bring FDCPA claims against the same collection agency in a class action lawsuit, the collection agency is more likely to admit its wrongdoing, to cease its illegal collection efforts, and to pay a reasonable sum of money to settle the claims.
What Victims Can Do
The Haeggquist and Eck Firm represents consumers in class action FDCPA lawsuits. If you think your rights under the FDCPA have been violated by a debt collection agency, contact an FDCPA lawyer in California at The Haeggquist and Eck Firm for a free evaluation of your case. Call (949) 724-9200 to get help now.