By: Robert J. Nahoum
The debt collection industry moves fast – a debt collector calling you today may be different from a debt collector that called you the previous week trying to collect the very same debt. How do you know who you are dealing with?
Federal debt collection laws, known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short), regulates the collection of consumer debts. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from using false, misleading and harassing debt collection tactics. The FDCPA also requires debt collectors to, from time-to-time, provide consumers with notice of certain rights. In particular, once a debt collector has contacted a consumer for the first time, it must send, within five days, a notice stating the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and a statement that the debt will be assumed valid if the consumer does not dispute it within 30 days of receiving it.
According to a recent court ruling in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge William Pauley III ruled that subsequent debt collectors must each separately notify consumers in writing of the consumer’s validation rights, even if the prior debt collector had already given the notice. Judge Pauley stated that the requirement of a validation notice “applies to initial communications from each successive debt collector” reasoning that
Reading the text broadly to effect the FDCPA’s consumer-protective purpose, this court holds that a debt collector must send a validation notice under section 1692(a) even if a prior debt collector already sent a notice regarding the same debt […] This interpretation is consistent with the recommendations of the Federal Trade Commission and forecloses some confusion a consumer might experience when faced with a successive debt collector.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Under the FDCPA, consumers have the right to demand that debt collectors validate the debt they are trying to collect. In their initial communication with a consumer, debt collectors must provide notice of this right. If you’ve been contacted by a debt collector, exercise this right! Each time you are contacted by a debt collector for the first time, demand that the debt be validated.
If you think a debt collector has failed to provide you with the required notices, speak with an experienced consumer lawyer to see if you have a case. If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, you can sue for statutory damages up to $1,000.00 plus actual damages (like pain and suffering) and your attorney’s fees. Most good consumer lawyers don’t charge their clients a penny out of pocket.
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.