Creditor Harassment and Debt Collection Lawyers
No one should have to tolerate harassment from a debt collector or creditor when having trouble paying bills. Florida residents who have fallen victim to unfair debt collection practices should be aware of their rights as consumers. Stringent Federal and State laws have been established to specifically prohibit unjust, abusive, or harassing debt collection activities. The federal government has enacted the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) to prevent collection agency abuse. Protection from harassment does not have to end there. Consumers in particular states can turn to the laws of their own state for additional protection. For instance, Florida is a state that has enacted legislation to protect consumers that covers debt collection agencies and creditors, also known as the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA).
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 1978, is a United States statute added as Title VIII of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. The purpose of the Act is to abolish abusive activity in the collection of debts, to encourage fair debt collection, and to provide consumers with the opportunity to dispute and receive validation of debt information in order to ensure the information is completely accurate. The Act establishes guidelines under which debt collectors may conduct proper business, defines the rights of consumers involved with debt collectors, and determines penalties and resolutions regarding violations of the Act.
Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act – Fla. Stat. 559.72 (Prohibited Practices)
In recent years, the FDCPA has received an increasing amount of attention with the struggling economy and the consequential explosion of a new legal practice area- consumer debt collection defense. Lawsuits seeking reimbursement for violations of these laws are becoming ever more popular.
The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) is a similar Act regarding the rights of consumers. The attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA are overly familiar with the exhaustive list of prohibited conduct regarding FCCPA. As a supplement to the FDCPA, the FCCPA makes it a serious violation of Florida state law-Fla. Stat.§ 559.72 to participate in certain practices in the collection of consumer debt including:
- Impersonating, in any way, a law enforcement officer or a representative of a government agency.
- Using or threatening, through any type of communication, force or hostility.
- Harming the debtor’s reputation.
- Speaking with or threatening to speak with a debtor’s employer (without permission) before having possession of a final judgment against the debtor.
- Communicating with the debtor or any member of their family with a frequency that can be considered as harassment to the debtor or their family.
- Using profane, obscene, or vulgar language when corresponding with the debtor or any member of their family.
- Attempting or threatening to enforce a debt knowing that the debt is not valid, or proclaim the existence of any other legal right knowing that the right does not exist.
- Using communication that mimics, in any manner, legal or judicial processes or that gives the appearance of being authorized or issued by a governmental agency, or attorney at law, when it is not.
- Advertising or threatening to advertise the sale of debt information as a means to obtain payment, except under court order.
- Mailing any correspondence to a debtor in an envelope or mailing package with words written or printed on the outside of the envelope or mailing package to humiliate the debtor, such as “Deadbeat, John Smith.”
- Communicating with the debtor between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. in the debtor’s appropriate time zone without the permission from the debtor.
- Communicating with a debtor knowing that the debtor is represented by an attorney in regard to the debt being sought.
The FCCPA allows for administrative remedies (Fla. Stat. § 559.730) and civil remedies (Fla. Stat. § 559.77) for violations of § 559.72, each are encouraged by Federal law.
Categories of Debt
Debts protected under the FCCPA include money owed for the purchase of an automobile used for general transportation, the purchase of a new home, medical treatment and nonbusiness credit card accounts.
Debt collectors covered by the act may include anyone, including the creditor, who consistently collects debts for others, such as a collection agency, an attorney who recurrently collects debts or forecloses mortgages, or a business that obtains debts after they are allegedly in default.
Registration of Collection Agencies
Consumers should also know that under Florida law, a debt collector attempting to collect a debt within the state is required to be registered and licensed by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation. Fla. Stat. § 559.553. Exceptions to this law may apply to members of the Florida Bar and the original creditors; however, most collection agencies do not fall under any exception to the rule.
If you have been approached by a collection agency for a debt owed, Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, advises you to check with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation to be certain that the agency is registered with the state. If they have failed to register and do not classify as an exception to the registration requirement, then they are violating the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act as well as the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Taking Action Against Collection Agencies
Being harassed by a creditor or collection agency can negatively affect many aspects of your life. Luckily, there are several defenses to unfair practices made by creditors, including statute of limitations, prior collection abuse, and other faults a creditor may have. All too often we note collection entities that pay little or no attention to Florida Statute and the list of rights each and every consumer has as enumerated in Florida law. Our creditor harassment attorneys are well versed in Florida’s Consumer Collection Practices Act and we are willing to take collection entities and corporations to task for violating the rights of consumers. For serious assistance in dealing with harassing debt collectors, please contact our office at 727-451-6900 for more information.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, is a Florida consumer justice law firm.