The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is one of the most important consumer protection laws in the United States. Under the FDCPA, businesses and organizations that are attempting to collect a debt are required to comply with certain strict regulations. Consumers in New Jersey are protected by the FDCPA. A consumer can hold a debt collector strictly liable for an FDCPA violation.
In this article, you will find an overview of the debt collection practices prohibited by the FDCPA and an explanation of your legal remedies if your rights were violated.
Four Debt Collection Practices that are Prohibited By the FDCPA
1. Collection Activity Without Adequate Initial Information
As a starting point, the FDCPA grants consumers in New Jersey the right to receive certain basic information from debt collectors. You will sometimes hear these rights referred to as ‘mini-Miranda’ rights. Under the FDCPA, a debt collector first communication with a consumer must state the following:
- That the debt collector is attempting to collect on a debt; and
- Any information obtained will be used to further that purpose.
Any debt collector that is not the original creditor must clearly indicate the amount of the debt that is owed. The failure to do so may be an FDCPA violation. Upon receiving initial notification that a debt collector is attempting to collect on a debt, a consumer should also receive notice that they have 30 days to request validation of that debt.
2. Seeking Anything Other than Contact Information from Third Parties
Under FDCPA, debt collectors are restricted in what they can say to third parties about your debt. Apart from a narrow set of third parties—the original creditor, the attorney that you hired, and the major credit reporting bureaus—debt collectors cannot disclose any specific details about your debt. A debt collector can only contact other third parties, such as your family, friends, and employer, to seek basic contact information about you. They cannot even disclose that you allegedly owe a debt.
If you have any questions about your protections against third-party communications under the FDCPA, our New Jersey consumer protection attorneys can help.
3. The Use of False or Misleading Representations
Another core consumer protection included within the FDCPA is its strong restrictions on the use of false and otherwise materially misleading representation. In other words, debt collectors in New Jersey cannot lie in an effort to pressure you into paying a debt. Some specific examples of practices that are barred by the FDCPA because they are false/misleading include:
- Posing as a law enforcement officer;
- Falsely telling you that you owe more than you do;
- Falsely claiming that additional (illegal) fees will be added;
- The use of fake business names; and
- Falsely claiming that they will tell family, friends, and your employer about the debt.
4. Harassment or Abusive Collection Practices
Finally, the FDCPA also bars debt collectors from engaging in abusive collection practices, including harassing consumers. One of the most important protections that fall under this section is the limit on the time of day during which debt collectors can call your phone. Calls made before 8:00 AM and after 9:00 PM are generally presumed to be harassment.
Other abusive collection practices are barred as well, including:
- Profane language; and
- Non-stop calls after you have requested no further telephone contact.
Notably, you have a right to request that the debt collector (other than the original creditor) stop calling you or texting you. As explained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the FDCPA allows New Jersey consumers to send an official notice requesting all further communications in writing.
Know Your Remedies: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Violations
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act contains strong legal remedies for consumers who were subject to violations. A consumer in New Jersey can seek up to $1,000 in statutory damages for an FDCPA violation. Beyond that, additional damages may be recovered for actual losses, including improper wage garnishment, attorneys’ fees, physical distress, and emotional distress.
Contact Our Trusted New Jersey FDCPA Attorneys Today
If you have any questions about consumer rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, we are here as a resource. Call us today or connect with us through our website to schedule your fully confidential appointment with an attorney. With an office in Parsippany, we handle FDCPA cases throughout the State of New Jersey.