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Consumer protection laws: Know your rights

Primer on consumer protection laws
  Debt collection

Law: Fair Debt Collections Practices Act of 1977

What it covers: Debt collection procedures

What it does for consumers: It protects them from aggressive debt collectors. The law holds them to strict conduct rules.

  • Debt collectors may not reach you at odd hours, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you grant permission for them to do so.
  • Debt collectors may not contact you at work if they know your employer dislikes such calls.
  • Debt collectors must go through your attorney, if you have one, in regard to your debt. They can only contact a third party once about where and how to find you.
  • Consumers must receive written notice five days after first contacted by a debt collector. It must detail the amount owed and provide instructions on how to dispute the amount if the consumer believes it to be wrong.
  • A collector may not contact you if within 30 days after you receive the written notice, you fire off a letter to the collection agency stating you do not owe the amount. However, a collector can resume collection procedures if they send proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed.
  • Collectors may not threaten harm, harass the debtor or third parties, make repeated calls to annoy the debtor or use profanity during the calls.
  • Collectors may not misrepresent themselves as attorneys, government agents, credit bureau workers or any other entity other than debt collectors, nor may they lie about the amount owed or what will happen they don't receive payment.
  • If you have a complaint, file it with the FTC and your state's attorney general.

For more information, read the Bankrate feature, "Debt collectors calling? Know your rights." If you want to dispute or negotiate a debt with a debt collector, use the form letters provided in the Bankrate feature "Form letters for debt collector problems."

If the debt owed involves unpaid federal taxes, read the Bankrate story "Overdue tax bill? A collection agency may call."

Access the full text of the law here.




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