Stop Harassing Phone Calls from Debt Collectors
Compliance: It's the Law
First, we must examine the regulations under which collection agencies are held accountable in the United States. At the federal level, agencies are largely governed by The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692p, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulation.
Collectors may not communicate with a consumer at any time or place which is unusual or known to be inconvenient to the consumer. In the absence of knowledge to the contrary, a debt collector shall assume that the convenient time for communicating with a consumer is between 8am and 9pm (Section 805 (a)(1)).
If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt (Section 805 (c)).
The term “consumer” includes the consumer’s spouse, parent (if the consumer is a minor), guardian, executor, or administrator (Section 805 (d)).
Batteries Not Included
In order to remain compliant, an agency's account management and dialing system must be designed accordingly:
- Time zones must be respected. Collection calls cannot be placed outside of the presumably convenient times. Generally, the time zone is determined from the last known address or area code.
- Prohibited work numbers must be restricted from dialing.
- Times known to be inconvenient must be restricted from dialing.
- Accounts with cease communications notification must be restricted from dialing.
A sound collection strategy is built with compliance in mind and it's a sign of a company trying to do right. But many blissfully disregard the rules or are simply unaware.
Putting It All Together
Now that we've covered the rules and tools, let's put them to work for you:
- Upon contact with a collector at your place of work, notify the collector that your employer forbids such communication. If your boss fields a call and sniffs a collector, they too can make it known that such communication is forbidden. From this point forward, the agency cannot contact you at work without violating federal law.
- Notify the collector of all times that are inconvenient for communication. For example, your family or health circumstances may compromise your ability to field calls from debt collectors in the afternoon.
- Send a cease communication notice in writing to the collection agency expressing your wishes to cease further communication. A certified letter is recommended. Upon receipt, notification is considered complete and future communication is a violation of federal law. However, there are a few exceptions. Remember, this doesn't absolve you of the debt, boost your credit score, or improve your legal position. It simply stops the communication. Beware that notification may fast track your account to legal since the normal course of collection has been halted.
- Keep complete and accurate notes of all written and verbal communication.
The FDCPA provides consumers with meaningful protection from collection agencies and provides legal recourse to those that have been violated. Furthermore, your state may provide additional laws that supplement the FDCPA. A single incident won’t guarantee a legal victory, but a pattern of violation certainly bolsters your position.