When dealing with debt collectors, it can feel like the deck is stacked against you. However, the power is certainly not all in the debt collector’s court. In fact, federal and state laws cover a lot of ground to protect consumers from unfair debt collection practices.
That doesn’t mean debt collectors will act in your interest. They are typically out to get as much money as they can in repayments, so it’s essential for you to know your rights and what you can do to protect them.
In some cases, asserting your rights can stop unfair debt collection practices in their tracks. In other cases, you may find that you’re dealing with legitimate collections that you aren’t sure how to pay. Working with an experienced bankruptcy attorney in Colorado can ensure you understand your options and rights so you can decide what might be best for you financially going forward.
How Does Federal Law Protect You Against Unfair Debt Collection Practices?
Federal law includes several acts that limit how debt collectors can contact you or treat you. One of the main federal laws governing debt collections is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This law has been further clarified by additions, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Debt Collection Rule.
The FDCPA covers consumer debt collection practices on the part of collection agencies and other businesses acting as collectors, including law offices. The protections under this law don’t typically apply to business debt.
Some protections you have under the FDCPA include:
- Some peace in your home and workplace, as debt collectors are typically not allowed to contact you before 8 am or after 9 pm. They also can’t continue contacting you at a place or time that they know is quite inconvenient, such as at your workplace when you aren’t allowed to receive personal calls. Note that you may need to communicate this to debt collectors so they know this is the case, but after that communication, they aren’t legally allowed to contact you at work.
- Freedom from harassment. Debt collectors are not allowed to harass or threaten you in person, over the phone, or via any other methods of contact. They are also prohibited from harassing or threatening anyone else while seeking payment of a debt, including your friends or family members.
- The right to have an attorney handle the issue. If a debt collector is notified that you have an attorney in your debt matter, the collector usually has to stop calling you or sending you correspondence. Typically, most contact about the debt must go through your attorney. However, debt collectors are not held to this if they don’t know you have an attorney. If a debt collector contacts you, give them the name of your attorney and ask them to forward all further communication to your lawyer.
- The ability to request that a debt collector stop contacting you. You can request, in writing, that a debt collector stop contacting you. Under the law, the debt collector must cease communication except in very limited circumstances, such as to notify you it is taking the next steps against you and filing a lawsuit. Note that asking a collector to stop contacting you doesn’t change the status of a debt, and if it’s a debt you legitimately owe, you continue to owe it even if you don’t hear about it again.
- The right to information about your debt. If a debt collector contacts you, you have a right to ask for verification of the debt. At a minimum, the debt collector must tell you the amount you owe and the name of the original creditor. The debt collector must also let you know, in writing, that you have a right to dispute the debt.
How Does Colorado Law Protect You Against Unfair Debt Collection Practices?
The Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides some further protections for consumers.
Some things the state law prohibits debt collectors from doing include:
- Depositing postdated checks before the agreed-upon date or using postdated checks or other payment arrangements as a threat
- Causing a consumer to incur expenses related to communications, such as text charges or collect call fees, through deceptive practices
- Threatening to seize property when the property can’t be legally seized for the debt
- Using postcards to communicate about debts
- Misleading consumers about any information related to the debt or collection of it
- Threatening violence or using profane language in any communication meant to collect a debt
- Continuously calling a consumer or engaging in other behavior meant to annoy the person into submission
How Can a Lawyer Help?
An attorney experienced in dealing with debt can help you protect yourself against unfair debt collection practices. If a debt collector is breaking the law, you may have the right to report them to certain agencies or sue them for violating your rights.
Debt collectors sometimes skate right on the line, not actually breaking any laws. However, if you owe money you can’t pay back, the constant calls and other communications—and the threat of a potential lawsuit—can be stressful. Reach out to the team at Holland Law Office today to find out how we can help. Whether you need to file bankruptcy to get the protection of an automatic stay or want to discuss debt defense after dealing with harassing phone calls, our experienced team can help.