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Fair debt collection: know your rights as a consumer

May 27, 2011 7:57 AM ET
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Seeking Alpha Analyst Since 2011

This is Maria Sanchez. I've been associated with various financial communities and websites. I've completed my studies from a Journalism and love to contribute in educating and advising people in debt. I've been involved with various social services and helping lots of NGOs across US.

Revolving debt, which mainly comprises of credit card debt, has been very high in the U.S for the past few years. According to the Federal Reserve, total consumer debt in the U.S is currently $796.5 billion. The deadly combination of economic depression and unwise consumer spending has been responsible for this.


As the U.S economy succumbed to economic depression, unemployment and wage cuts skyrocketed. This seriously affected the finances of common people. Also, the cost of living soared due to inflation and millions of people got into debt. A lot of people began to rely on credit cards, which backfired in the long run. Consequently, they had to resort to debt consolidation and debt settlement.


Due to high debt levels in America, aggressive collection practices have increased significantly. Too many debt collectors overlook the guidelines laid down by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Many people are unaware of their rights as a consumer and they suffer as the debt collectors take advantage of their ignorance.


As a smart consumer you should know that violating the FDCPA laws may nullify the debt collector’s claim on your debt. Also, you may sue the debt collection agency for trying to collect debt from you by illegal methods. Here are a few guidelines that the debt collectors must follow while trying to recover their money from the consumers:


  • According to the FDCPA, the debt collectors can contact consumers from 8.00 a.m-9.00 p.m. The debt collectors can neither call a consumer at any other time nor can they call someone repeatedly with an intention to harass or abuse him/her. Moreover, a debt collector cannot use profane or abusive language over phone. Also, if an attorney is representing a consumer, then the debt collector has to contact him rather than contacting the consumer himself.


  • A debt collector must stop all communication with a consumer if the latter requests for validation of debt. However, a consumer must reply to the collection letter within 30 days. 


  • A creditor/debt collector cannot contact you at your office. Neither can he contact you through any “embarrassing media” like post cards or “social networking sites.


  • You should know that a debt collector must identify himself and name the original creditor, if he contacts you over phone. He should also make it clear to the consumer that whatever information is obtained will be used to collect the debt. It is mandatory for the debt collector to tell the consumer that the latter has the right to dispute the debt.


  • Debt collectors often try to scare the consumers by saying that legal action will be initiated against them. It is certainly possible for the debt collectors to sue you, but in most cases it is not worth the time and money (from the collector’s perspective).


Don’t be nervous while dealing with debt collectors. If you are aware about consumer rights, then you can very well protect yourself from the clutches of the debt collectors.

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