by: Robert J. Nahoum
You’ve just been sued by a debt collector on an old debt. You hired a lawyer to defend you and the lawyer tells you that the debt collector has violated federal debt collection laws known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). But, your lawyer also tells you that the FDCPA violation doesn’t mean that you win the case. In other words, consumers sometimes have the impression that because the debt collector’s conduct was false, misleading or harassing, as a punishment to the debt collector, the consumer no longer has to pay the underlying debt. Unfortunately, this is generally not the case.
The FDCPA is a federal law that regulates the collection of consumer debts. It precludes third party debt collectors from using false, misleading, deceptive and harassing debt collection tactics. However, an FDCPA violation does not necessarily mean that the debt collector’s lawsuit must be dismissed.
The existence of an FDCPA claim stands alone and separate from the question of whether the consumer owes the debt. The FDCPA examines the conduct of the debt collector, not the merit of the debt.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Even though an FDCPA claim is not a defense to a debt collection lawsuit, it is still a claim worth pursuing. If in the course of a debt collection lawsuit a debt collector violates your rights under the FDCPA, you can sue it for statutory damages up to $1,000.00 plus actual damages (like pain and suffering) and your attorney’s fees.
So, while an FDCPA claim is not necessarily a defense to a collection lawsuit, pursuing your consumer protection rights can go a long way to mitigate that debt.