Georgia residents struggling with debt have enough anxiety without the added stress of constant telephone calls from debt collectors. It might seem unfair for debt collection agencies to be able to nag a debtor at all hours of the day and night — and it is.
Federal Law Protections
A federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, protects debtors from a variety of debt collection practices, even without any action on the debtor’s part. For example, collection agencies are prohibited from calling at inconvenient times, generally before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. Also, collectors covered under the FDCPA are not allowed to lie, use profane language or threaten the debtor with jail or violence.
There is more good news for debtors who are willing to take action. Debtors can stop receiving calls at work from a collection agency by telling the agency they cannot receive calls at work. Further, if a debtor tells a collection agency not to make any more phone calls to try to collect the debt, the agency must not call again, though written communications are allowed.
If a collection agency violates the FDCPA, consumers have the right to sue in state or federal court. If the debtor proves the agency acted illegally, the judge can award up to $1,000 in damages, plus attorney’s fees. The original debt the collection agency was trying to collect does not go away, however.
When the FDCPA Does Not Apply
Among other restrictions, the FDCPA does not apply to an original creditor, the person or company who is actually owed money, such as a credit card company. It can be enforced only against an agency or an attorney hired to try to collect the debt. To be sure to stop the original creditor from phoning, a debtor can take an additional step: filing bankruptcy.
Filing bankruptcy is a solution for many people who find themselves overwhelmed by debt. A person who files a petition for bankruptcy should notify all creditors and collectors. The bankruptcy filing automatically stays all attempts at collecting debts, and phone calls and letters will stop.
Consulting with an experienced bankruptcy attorney will help anyone who is burdened with debt to thoroughly understand the protections of the FDCPA, whether the protections apply to an individual situation, and when filing for bankruptcy is the best choice.