1. Up to $1,000 in statutory damages. If you bring a successful FDCPA case, the court will award you up to $1,000 in statutory damages. These damages are provided by law as a penalty against a debt collector that violated the FDCPA and you don’t have to prove that you suffered any actual harm to be awarded statutory damages. Although there are rare cases where a court awards a consumer less than $1,000, in most cases the consumer is awarded the full $1,000.
2. Provable actual damages. If a debt collector’s abuse has caused you to cry or lose sleep or if the collector’s harassment has affected your relationship with your loved ones or your performance at work, you may be able to recover actual damages. Not every consumer will suffer actual damages due to a collector’s conduct, but if you can successfully prove that you’ve suffered tangible harm, you’re entitled to compensation for that suffering.
3. A free attorney. Probably the most important remedy under the FDCPA is the fee-shifting provision. This means that if you win your case, the collector has to pay your attorney fees. Because of this, most consumer attorneys take FDCPA cases on a full contingency fee, which means that you don’t have to give your lawyer any money up front. Your attorney gets paid by the debt collector or gets a percentage of any out-of-court settlement.
4. Your litigation costs are covered. Litigation can be expensive. The costs for filing fees, service fees, deposition transcripts, etc. can quickly add up. But if you win your FDCPA case, the debt collector has to pay all of your court costs.
5. Hold the debt collector accountable. When the FDCPA was enacted, Congress gave each individual consumer the right to sue a debt collector for violating the Act. The idea was that consumers and their attorneys would act as “private attorney generals” by holding debt collectors that violate the FDCPA accountable for their conduct through private lawsuits. Debt collectors love to lecture consumers about taking “personal responsibility” for paying their bills. An FDCPA lawsuit is a chance to turn this argument right back around at the debt collector and force them to take responsibility for their illegal debt collection tactics.
If you’re dealing with debt collectors, make sure to download and use my free debt collection call log so that you can document all of the debt collectors’ communications. And if a debt collector does anything that you think was unfair; untrue; or harassing or abusive, please contact me to discuss the situation further. I offer a free case review for all FDCPA cases and if I agree to handle your case, you won’t have to pay me any money up front. My fees come from the money I recover from you if you win your case or accept a negotiated settlement.
It is an unfortunate and little-known fact that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) does not apply to every debt collection situation. Two requirements must be met before the FDCPA comes into play.
First, the debt that is involved must be a “consumer debt”. The FDCPA defines “consumer debt” as any debt where the money was used to buy goods or services that were “primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.” What does this mean in English? It means that business debts are not covered by the FDCPA. Only debts incurred to buy goods or services for use by you, your family, or in your house.
Second, there must be a “debt collector” involved. Under the FDCPA, “debt collector” is a term of art that means a business that collects the debts of another. This means that the original lender or creditor is not covered by the FDCPA. So if you had a Capital One credit card and the Capital One collection department is calling you, they are not required to follow the FDCPA. But if ABC collection agency is collecting on behalf of Capital One, the FDCPA applies to them. Law firms are also covered by the FDCPA if they regularly collect consumer debts. So the FDCPA definitely applies to a collection law firm, but probably doesn’t apply to a law firm that only occasionally handles consumer collection cases.
Of course, even if your situation involves a consumer debt and a debt collector, there must still be a violation of the FDCPA. This article details many of the common FDCPA violations.
If you’re dealing with debt collectors, make sure to download and use my free debt collection call log so that you can document all of the debt collectors’ communications. And if the debt collector does anything that you think was unfair; untrue; or harassing, oppressive, or abusive, please contact me to discuss the situation further. I offer a free case review for all FDCPA cases and if I agree to handle your case, you won’t have to pay me any money up front. My fees come from the money I recover from you if you win your case or accept a negotiated settlement.
New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo is trying to shut down Benning-Smith Group, a large debt collection conglomerate that operates under 13 different trade names. Cuomo’s office has received 850 complaints against debt collectors operating under the Benning-Smith umbrella. Cuomo claims that there have been approximately 1,000 violations of state and federal law in New York alone and his staff has also spoken to people from Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas who claim they were victims.
Cuomo alleges that Benning-Smith collectors used outrageous and illegal collection techniques. One collector repeated the name of a consumer’s daughter and described sexual attacks he would commit against her unless a debt was paid, Cuomo said. Other collectors called consumers drunks, deadbeats and in one case a low-life piece of trash. One allegedly told a woman he would pay the debt himself if the consumer and her husband would have sex with him, the attorney general said. And in an answering machine tape that Cuomo provided to The Associated Press, an unidentified collection agent told a New York grandmother of seven in 2006: “You are totally ghetto. … Learn English; get an education instead of just sitting on your fat derriere all day long.” The caller then insulted her pronunciation of “plan” and called her an “uneducated reject. … Get a real job, get an education and learn to take care of your responsibility like a grown adult would.” The call was over a $182 debt that the woman, 50-year-old Dorothy Gilbert, of Rochester, had paid more than a year before. ”I know I didn’t sleep for a couple of nights,” Gilbert told the AP on Tuesday. “What if it was a person who couldn’t take that kind of talk? Or someone with a bad heart or mentally imbalanced or very depressed? Then you could be looking at murder.”
All of the alleged conduct described above is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you have suffered through similar abuse or harassment, you are entitled to sue the offending debt collector under the FDCPA and receive money damages if you win your case. If you live in Minnesota and have been abused or harassed by a debt collector, feel free to contact me for a free case review.
NPR–NY: Debt collector used sex threats, harassment