Posted On: November 30, 2011 by Derek T. Braslow

Debt Collectors Beware - Consumers Can Fight Back

There is no question that the struggling economy has put more Americans into debt and more businesses are trying to recover payments that are rightfully owed to them. But we have laws that require these businesses to try to collect these debts in a fair and just manner. Consumers need not stand by and submit themselves to harassing treatment from debt collectors. They can stand up and fight back to stop this demeaning conduct.

Consumers are protected by federal laws to ensure that debt collection practices are fair and reasonable. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) are federal laws that protect debtors from harassing or misleading debt collection practices. Violations of the Act can result in fines up to $1500 per violation.

Sometimes debt collectors, in violation of the FDCPA, call and leave messages two, three or four times per week. While it is not illegal to call a debtor in an attempt to collect a debt, it may be illegal depending upon how many times the debtor is contacted. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from using calls “repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse or harass.”

Another potential violation of the FDCPA involves misleading language in debt collection letters.

Even banks have recently faced class action suits over unfair debt collection conduct. Some of the illegal tactics include leaving harassing phone message calls on your cell phone, and calling family, friends or co-workers about a debt.

Many debt collectors are using automated equipment to dial cellular telephone numbers in an attempt to collect a debt. This conduct is in direct violation of the TCPA, a federal law that specifically prohibits any automatic telephone dialing system or pre-recorded voice to make any call to a cell phone.

Apparently, many debt collection companies are using something called robo-dialing or predictive dialing, where calls are placed without an actual person on the phone until a connection is made. Once a connection is made, at that point, either a voice mail message is left or the predictive dialing forwards the call to a person. These automated calls are typically made without the consent of the debtor, and sometimes done even after the debt had already been paid. Still, regardless of the status of the debt, as soon as these robotic calls are made, these debt collectors are in violation of the Act.

Recently, a settlement was reached in a class action lawsuit against Alliant Law Group, PC in Federal Court in California where the Plaintiffs alleged that Alliant called people on their cellular telephones, either with an automatic telephone dialing system or by a prerecorded voice message between June 2006 and June 2011 in violation of the TCPA. Victims are entitled to statutory damages of $500 per violaton even if the debt collector’s actions were not intentional. If deemed intentional or willful, statutory damages are $1500 per violation. In addition, violators are subject to attorneys’ fees, litigation expenses and costs of the suit.

Even banks have recently faced class action suits over unfair debt collection conduct. Some of the illegal tactics include leaving harassing voice message calls on your cell phone, calling family, friends or co-workers about a debt and phoning multiple times each day about your debt.

Consumers can fight back against these illegal practices and should put a stop to this.

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