By: Robert J. Nahoum
A debt collector has got you on the phone; you truthfully tell him that you simply don’t have the money to pay and he crudely and obnoxiously calls you a liar. Can he get away with it?
Under federal debt collection laws known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short), a debt collector is prohibited from using “conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692d.”
The FDCPA provides a non-exhaustive list of what sort of conduct has the natural consequence to harass, oppress, or abuse. Included on the list is the use or threat of use of violence, criminal penalties or harm to reputation, the use of obscene or profane language, excessively causing a telephone to ring and the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.
In a recent Michigan case, Summers v. Merchants & Medical Credit Corp.,the federal district court was called upon to consider whether calling a consumer a liar should be added to that list. In that case, the consumer alleged that a debt collector had engaged in unfair debt collection practices when, during a debt collection call, the debt collector accused the consumer of lying about her place of employment.
The judge ruled that while Federal District Courts appear to be “split on whether merely calling someone a ‘liar’ gives rise to a valid claim under § 1692d, […] because some courts have found that calling a debtor a ‘liar’ could make out a claim for harassment under § 1692d,” the complaint’s allegations were sufficient to state a valid claim for relief.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Document with detailed notes every call from a debt collector calls and if you are in a two party state, record debt collection calls. If a debt collector calls you a liar, speak with a qualified consumer protection attorney and see if you have a case under the FDCPA. If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, you can sue the debt collector for statutory damages up to $1,000.00, actual damages (like pain and suffering) and the debt collector may have to pay for your attorney.
What does this mean for you? The FDCPA gives consumers the power to swing the pendulum in the other direction and call the debt collector to the mat for violating your rights as a consumer. Best of all, if you’re successful, the debt collector may have to pay for your attorney.
If you need help settling or defending a debt collection law suit, stopping harassing debt collectors or suing a debt collector, contact us today to see what we can do for you.