Debt Collection Abuse
A person seeking to collect a debt does not have the right to abuse, harass, or engage in dishonest or deceptive behavior towards a consumer who either can’t repay or refuses to repay a debt.
Federal and Florida state laws strictly govern debt collection activities. These laws were passed following a Congressional finding that dishonest and abusive types of debt collection activities were harmful to consumers, harmful to the national economy, and responsible for creating disadvantages unfair to ethical debt collectors, thus creating a competitive disadvantage. In my practice, I find that unlawful debt collection activities remain a significant problem, and that many of my clients have been victims of debt collector abuse and deception.
- Common examples of unlawful debt collector activities include:
- Harassing phone calls (more than one per day, or containing abusive communications).
- Threats to contact a debtor’s employer prior to obtaining a judgment.
- Threats to file lawsuits where the statute of limitations has passed.
- Contacting a debtor’s friends and family for purposes other than obtaining location information.
- Refusal to recognize a debtor’s legitimate dispute of a debt.
- Reporting or threatening to report a debt disputed by the debtor to a credit reporting agency without also disclosing that the disputed nature of the debt will also be reported.
- Threatening a debtor with arrest if he or she does not pay a debt.
- Threatening garnishment of exempt income or assets such as social security disability income.
These statutes provide an important private cause of action that is designed to ensure marketplace compliance without the need to create a giant government bureaucracy in order to oversee the debt collection industry. These statutes provide that a debtor who has been victim of unlawful debt collection activities can recover statutory damages of $1,000, plus actual damages, costs, and reasonable attorney fees. The remedies are not designed to enrich the debtor or to bankrupt the debt collector, but to compensate the debtor for any actual losses while also providing a meaningful incentive for debt collectors to comply with the law.