If a consumer feels that they are being harassed or mistreated by a third party collection agency, he or she may be entitled to receive damages under the FDCPA. FDCPA, which stands for Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, was created by Congress in 1977. Its original purpose was to amend the Consumer Credit Protection Act. Currently, its main objective is to protect individuals from abusive and unethical practices from collection agencies.
Collection agencies must follow a protocol of permissible and forbidden actions under this act. Among other things, a collection agency cannot contact others about a consumer’s debt, threaten of use profanity, or contact outside of certain hours. A collection agency must follow the law, send customers a written notice of debt, respect privacy and be honest.
Under the FDCPA, a consumer may sue for both actual and other damages incurred during collection. Actual damages include:
- Physical damages- This can include damages that result from stress related injuries from repeated and abusive collection calls, such as headaches, rashes, heart and cardiovascular problems, etc. A consumer can receive compensation for medical and hospital bills related to these injuries.
- Emotional damages- These can include any damages related to stress and emotional hardship. Generally, these types of damages are harder to prove and to monetize, due to the nature of the injuries, but they can be recovered in a FDCPA claim.
- Wage garnishment- If your wages were garnished due to the collection agency’s actions, you may be able to recover those wages in a claim.
- Lost wages- if your work productivity has suffered due to constant collection calls, you also may be able to recover wages.
- Attorney’s fees- you also may be able to recover any fees spent on employing the services of an attorney. This is especially beneficial as fees spent on legal services can accumulate in cases such as these.
If a consumer feels that his or her rights have been violated by a collection agency, there are several ways in which to file a claim. The first is to file a complaint with the FTC. Two others are to file in state or small claims court. Also, filing with the state attorney general is also possible. Although all of these methods can yield a favorable result, generally the most highly recommended method is filing in state court.
The amount of possible damages is highest in a state court, and a court lawsuit will allow you to present all evidence and receive proper attorney representation. There are a number of attorneys who specialize in collection claims that a consumer can choose to be represented by.
Locating an attorney is as simple as filling out a free evaluation or contacting the bar association in your state. Generally, a consumer has one year from the date of the incident to file a claim.