When a person owes money sooner or later that account will be sent to a debt collector. When that happens the debt collectors will do just about anything to get that money. Fortunately, regardless of how much you owe you are still entitled to dignity under the law. There two federal laws and one Florida law that we can use to protect you from overzealous debt collectors. These laws are the TCPA and the FDCPA at the federal level, and the FCCPA at the Florida level.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act makes it illegal for debt collectors to do any of the following things:
If a debt collector is engaged in any of the violations listed above they are liable to you for money damages.
The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act is the state counterpart to the FDCPA. The conduct prohibited under the FDCPA is also prohibited under the FCCPA but there are important distinctions that make the FCCPA a worthy ally in the fight against overzealous debt collectors:
- The FDCPA applies only to debt collectors, that means that original creditors can harass you with impunity under the FDCPA. The FCCPA makes it illegal even for original creditors to harass you.
- The FDCPA has a damage cap of $1,000 per claim plus attorney’s fees. Under the FCCPA the debt collector can be subjected to much higher damages than this because the FCCPA allows for punitive damages.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA, is a federal statute designed to protect consumers from the annoyances of automatic dialers, “robo-calls,” unsolicited text messages, unsolicited fax messages, and calls made to a cell phone without consent. If a person or business is found to violate the TCPA, the consumer is entitled to recover up to $1,500 for every call.
The TCPA prohibits telemarketing calls using a “computerized” or pre-recorded voice. According to the FCC, debt collection calls are not considered telemarketing calls, and so, the TCPA does not apply when debt collection calls are made to a residential telephone line (also known as a “house phone”).
However, when calling a cell phone line, the TCPA prohibits all calls made using a “computerized” or pre-recorded voice and the use of auto-dialers or robo-dialers. The “telemarketing calls only” rule does not apply to calls made to your cell phone. Therefore, debt collection calls made to your cell phone in violation of the TCPA could be worth up to $1,500 for every call.
Sometimes, companies using auto-dialers will call multiple people simultaneously under the assumption that only one consumer will pick up the phone. When that person does, the auto-dialer will automatically hang up the phone for everyone else being called and then transfer the connection with the consumer who answered the phone to the sales representative or the debt collector. Sometimes, because this process is not instantaneous, and because people tend to hang up the phone after picking it up and hearing nothing, the auto-dialers may include a pre-recorded message saying something like “please stand by.” When done on your cell phone, this alone is sufficient to violate the TCPA. Because intentional, a violation like this can be worth up to $1,500 for every call.
If you’re being harassed by robo-calls or by overzealous debt collectors give us a call. We can help you make them stop and get you some money to compensate you for being harassed.