Rules for Collecting Debt

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal statute designed to protect consumers against unfair, misleading, and deceptive debt collection practices.

Debt collection agencies, debt buyers, law firms collecting debt on behalf of others, as well as anyone who regularly collects debt originally owed to another person or entity usually must abide by the rules and procedures set forth by the FDCPA. Violators of these rules for collecting debt could potentially be liable for actual and statutory damages, as well as other fees, as follows:

  • Actual damages may include compensation for emotional distress (e.g. anxiety, worry, etc.) caused by illegal collection activity
  • Statutory damages are meant to penalize the violator(s) regardless of actual damages and are typically capped at $1,000.
  • Attorney’s fees incurred by the consumer in pursuit of rectifying violations may also be recovered from the violator(s).

The FDCPA provides specific examples of violations, like using abusive language, falsely insinuating that legal action will be taken if a debt is not paid, and calling consumers during odd hours.

Many states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts, have passed equivalents of the FDCPA, which may provide additional protections for consumers.