There is no denying it; debt collection is a booming business in the United States. In fact, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) 2014 Annual Report, roughly one in seven American adults had debt that was subject to the collections process in 2013 – making it a multi-billion dollar enterprise.
Given the sheer size of the debt collection industry, it likely comes as little surprise that there are no shortages of complaints regarding the unscrupulous and harassing tactics used by some debt collectors. Indeed, the CFPB’s Annual Report made note of the fact that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received over 200,000 debt collection complaints from various sources in 2013 alone. Of the complaints filed directly with the FTC, the most frequent claims of misconduct involved allegations that collectors made repeated harassing calls and/or misrepresented the character, amount or status of the debt owed.
Federal and Texas laws that protect consumers from debt collectors
It is crucial to note that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) does afford individuals protection from many of the invasive techniques used by debt collections. For instance, debt collectors may not:
- Harass, oppress or otherwise abuse an individual, such as by using threats of violence or making repeated phone calls to annoy
- Make false statements when attempting to collect the debt, such as misrepresenting the amount an individual owes or falsely claiming they work for the government
- Given false credit information about an individual to anyone, including a credit reporting company
Importantly, these are merely a few of the actions expressly prohibited under federal law – indeed, there are many more. In addition, numerous states, including Texas, have created their own laws that further bolster consumer protections by also barring many forms of creditor harassment. For example, under Texas law, debt collectors may not:
- Attempt to coerce an individual by using, or threatening to use, violence or other criminal acts to cause harm
- Harass or abuse an individual by using profane language
- Attempt to coerce an individual by threatening arrest or the repossession and sale of the individual’s property without court proceedings
Sadly, many of those drowning in debt are not aware of their rights under the law, which is why it is always best to consult with an experienced debt collection defense attorney if you are subject to harassment from debt collectors. The expertise of a skilled attorney is often indispensible in such situations, regardless of whether they are needed to help negotiate with creditors to reduce debt or simply to develop a debt elimination settlement. Without the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney, you risk continued harassment by relentless debt collectors.