Reporting a Debt Collector
If a debt collector or collection agency behaves abusively, dishonestly, or unfairly, you might be able to sue them. A debt collector is typically someone who purchases debt from a creditor who has failed to collect from a consumer for whatever reason.
They frequently pay far less than what the customer owes because creditors prefer to get some payment than no payment, and the debt collector then pursues the customer for the entire amount owed for the debt. The fact is that debt collection companies have made a financial commitment to your debt. To make money, they must actively pursue collection. Debt collection companies occasionally cross the line into illegal action as a result of this temptation to be aggressive. Once they do, you have legal recourse, including the ability to file a lawsuit.
To find out where you can report a debt collector for an alleged violation of the law, continue reading here.
Who is Considered by Washington Law as a Debt Collector?
The FDCPA’s definition of a debt collector is similar to Washington law’s definition. Both collectors and debt buyers are people who work in the industry of collecting debts on other people’s behalf. Original creditors, however, are not.
What to Expect If A Debt Collector is Pursuing You?
The procedure could seem overwhelming. You receive repeated phone calls and letters requesting payment. Every time the phone rings, you feel a shiver down your spine; you dread opening the mail considering what you might discover. To say the least, this may be very stressful.
Fortunately, you have some defense. When attempting to collect a debt, debt collectors and debt collection firms are subject to severe regulations. Although state law may also provide you with remedies, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) safeguards you from abusive practices.
Washington State Collection Agency Act
The first thing to know is that intimidating, threatening, or harassing behavior in connection with the collection of a debt is prohibited by Washington state law.
The Department of Licensing and the Washington State Collection Agency Board are responsible for enforcing the Washington State Collection Agency Act, which went into effect on January 1, 1972. The goal of the regulation is to safeguard customers and put an end to unfair debt collection tactics.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Congress thought that debt collector violating the law used unfair, dishonest, and abusive debt collecting methods. It is believed that these tactics led to individual bankruptcies, unstable marriages, job losses, and a general invasion of consumers’ privacy. So the legislation was passed to put a halt to this activity.
When debt collectors and debt collection firms attempt to collect consumer debt, they are subject to the FDCPA. These consist of:
- Mortgage obligations
- Credit card debt
- Medical expenses
- Student Loans Debt
- Fees for homeowners’ associations
- Dishonored checks
- Rental dues
- Bills for water and sewage
Remember that the law does not cover debts related to taxes, commercial debts, or child support responsibilities. Furthermore, remember that it does not stop a creditor from attempting to collect its obligation (only third-party debt collection agencies and debt collectors).
FDCPA infractions will not eliminate your debt
You normally have a contractual obligation to pay back debts when you incur them. You are still liable for paying the debt even if the debt collector violates the law when attempting to collect from you, unless it has expired or is otherwise invalid.
In contrast, if a collector breaches the FDCPA, you could have some alternatives for resolving the matter.
File a Lawsuit
You may file a lawsuit against a debt collector in federal or state court if they violate the FDCPA. Even in small claims court, you can file a lawsuit. Within a year of the violation’s date, you must take this action.
If you prevail in your lawsuit, the judge may order the debtor to make good on any real damages you sustained as well as grant statutory damages of up to $1,000 (even though you are unable to show that you were hurt physically), attorneys’ fees, and costs. The debt collector may also be told by the court to stop using particular collecting methods.
The United States Supreme Court clearly stated that the one-year statute of limitations for an FDCPA infringement starts to run once the alleged misconduct occurs, and not when the allegation is found, absent the application of an equitable doctrine. According to the FDCPA, lawsuits citing infringements of the FDCPA should be made “within one year from the date on which the violation occurs.”
To settle the debt, use the violation as leverage
You can use the FDCPA violation as leverage to get the debt settled if you are trying to settle a debt and the collector violates the law. Because collectors are aware that an FDCPA action can be expensive to defend and may result in a judgment against them, they frequently adopt this strategy.
The strength of your case will determine how much sway you gain from the possibility of an FDCPA lawsuit. In debt settlement negotiations, you will have considerably more negotiating power if you have solid evidence of a breach (many letters, records of several phone calls, testimony of coworkers who received phone calls, etc.).
Reporting a Debt Collector that violated the law
You could also register a complaint against the debt collector with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and notify your state’s Attorney General’s office of the issue.
The CFPB will communicate your complaint to the collector and work with you to find a solution. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which may decide to sue the debt collector to stop its unlawful debt collection methods, will also be informed about your complaint. The FDCPA is enforced by both the FTC and the CFPB.
You might be able to recover damages if you sue
You might be entitled to compensation if a debt collector or collection agency breaks the law. In addition to your actual damages, you may also be entitled to statutory damages up to $1,000 and, if you prevail, expenses and reasonable legal fees. Punitive damages cannot be awarded (those are damages designed to punish a wrongdoer).
But keep in mind that you can be required to cover the debt collector’s expenditures and legal fees if you lose.
Conduct Required of Debt Collectors
According to the FDCPA, debt collectors must:
- Formally introduce themselves as debt collectors
- Be aware that the information obtained is only used to recover a debt from you during the initial contact with you.
- Identify the person’s name and address to whom you owe the money.
- Tell you that you are given 30 days to contest the debt
- If asked, provide proof of the debt.
Conduct Prohibited by Debt Collectors
In general, the FDCPA forbids debt collectors from engaging in any form of harassment, including:
- Making a phone call to you outside of 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.
- Cursing at you
- Lie to you
- Posing as an attorney
- Contacting you at all after you’ve requested that they leave you alone, disputed the debt’s amount, or demanded that it be verified in writing within 30 days of their initial contact
- Making your phone to continuously ring
- Adding your name to a list of “bad debts”
- Providing incorrect information to a credit reporting organization, or threatening to do so
- Threatening legal action without having the legal authority or desire to do so
- Threatening to seize property without the required authorization or motivation
- Calling you when you’re at work even of you or your employer tells them not to
- Sending post cards to you
- Contacting anyone but your attorney, if you have any
Typical Complaints Against Debt Collectors
The following claims are commonly made by consumers who decide to sue debt collection agencies and debt collectors:
- Inappropriate communications
Calling you at the wrong time of day or night, contacting you at work despite your requests that they refrain, or calling you directly even when you have an attorney.
- Abuse or harassment
Calling you frequently only to harass, annoy, or threaten you, using abusive language, including your name on a list of those who don’t pay their bills, or offering to sell your debt to you in an effort to pressure you into paying.
- False or deceptive representations
Lying about their identity, the debt’s specifics, etc.
- Unjust practices
Threatening to call collect so that you pay excessive fees, threatening to deposit a postdated check early, threatening to reclaim property without the correct authorization or intent, etc.
- Incorrect or incomplete disclosures
Failing to disclose the consumer’s right to challenge the debt, keeping the identity of the creditor a secret, omitting to mention that the debt must be contested within thirty days of receipt or it would be assumed to be legal, etc.
- Processing payments improperly
Neglecting to apply a payment under instructions, paying a disputed debt with payment, etc.
Since the FDCPA was created by Congress in 1977, it initially did not address contemporary communication channels like text messages, emails, voicemails, and social media. To make clear how debt collectors may utilize these digital communications, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a final rule revising Regulation F, which administers the FDCPA, on October 30, 2020.
The rule allows consumers to unsubscribe from debt collectors’ electronic messages and explains how the FDCPA’s rights apply to digital communications. It also specifies how collectors may use voicemails and establishes a call frequency cap.
Contact our Debt Defense Attorney in Oregon and Washington!
Consider speaking with an experienced debt defense lawyer if a debt collector is violating the law while attempting to collect a debt from you. A skilled debt defense lawyer can assess your particular circumstances and provide legal advice regarding your rights and choices.
Our knowledgeable Washington debt defense lawyers in Vancouver, Seattle, and Tacoma can assist you. At Northwest Debt Defense Law Firm, we deal all day with the debt collectors and their attorneys. You can learn more about your options and choose the next rational move with the assistance of our debt defense legal firm. For a free debt analysis, give our Washington debt collection defense lawyers a call or fill out our online form.
Consider also speaking with our trusted Oregon debt defense attorneys about your legal concerns with debt defense if you reside in Portland, Salem, or Medford City.
Northwest Debt Defense Law Firm
650 NE Holladay St, Suite 1640
Portland, OR 97232, United States
NW Debt Defense Law Firm is a Debt Relief Agency. Where appropriate we file petitions for relief under the Bankruptcy Code solely for consumers in the District of Oregon. We represent both Oregon and Washington consumers in collections law suits in Oregon and Washington state courts.