Do You Know Your Rights When It Comes To Creditor Harassment?
There’s no question that times are tough right now. Ever-increasing costs of living and disproportionate salaries have become the norm, and many Americans have no choice but to pay for everyday essentials with credit. Of course, creditors are entitled to repayment of any amounts extended to consumers, plus interest, and they are well within their rights to pursue collection of delinquent accounts – usually.
However, the law does not give creditors free rein to collect on debts in any way they see fit. The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, Florida Statute § 559.55 et. seq., describes certain things that creditors are absolutely not allowed do when attempting to collect on a debt owed to them. Many debtors just don’t know what creditors can and can’t do when trying to collect, and automatically assume that the creditor’s conduct is allowed by the law – after all, a creditor wouldn’t do anything illegal, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. It’s important for you to know your rights when it comes to collection activities, because many creditors aren’t playing by the rules, and they’re counting on debtors to be misinformed and thus easily intimidated.
One of the most common issues we see when it comes to creditors violating consumer protection law is frequent phone calls. The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act specifically states that creditors may not “willfully communicate with the debtor or any member of her or his family with such frequency as can reasonably be expected to harass the debtor or her or his family, or willfully engage in other conduct which can reasonably be expected to abuse or harass the debtor or any member of her or his family.” Florida Statute § 559.72(7). A creditor is permitted call you regarding a debt that you owe in an attempt to collect it. However, a creditor absolutely cannot call you six or eight times a day trying to collect that debt. Whether a creditor places calls with such frequency as to be considered harassment under the law is a gray area open to argument, but in cases where a creditor calls multiple times a day, it’s pretty clear.
Another issue we deal with regularly is a creditor trying to collect a debt that has been discharged in bankruptcy. Many Americans who are overwhelmed with debt file for bankruptcy in the hopes of getting a “fresh start,” which includes getting creditors to stop calling and sending collection letters. In a bankruptcy proceeding, a debtor lists all his or her debts, the creditors are paid a portion of the debt owed through the bankruptcy, and the debtor eventually receives a discharge stating that the debts listed in the bankruptcy filing are legally settled and thus no longer owed. Despite receiving notice of a bankruptcy discharge, creditors sometimes continue collection efforts. This is a violation of the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act § 559.72(9), which states that a creditor is not permitted to “claim, attempt, or threaten to enforce a debt when such person knows that the debt is not legitimate, or assert the existence of some other legal right when such person knows that the right does not exist.” Once a debt is legally discharged in bankruptcy, that’s the end of it – it’s no longer owed, and thus the creditor no longer has a legitimate claim or a right to enforce payment.
There are many more things that a creditor is prohibited from doing when attempting to collect a debt under the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act. It’s important to know what creditors can and can’t do, because you may be able to file suit against a creditor who uses illegal tactics to collect from you. As a result, you can force them to stop using such tactics, and can recover statutory and actual damages for your trouble. If you believe a creditor is attempting to collect a debt from you illegally, you should speak with an experienced consumer defense attorney immediately.