Introduction to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

07 Nov Introduction to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) was enacted in 1977 “to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to insure those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and to promote consistent State action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692. In passing the FDCPA, Congress determined that debt collection abuse was “serious and widespread.” Russell v. Equifax A.R.S., 74 F.3d 30, 33 (2d Cir.1996).

The FDCPA prohibits unfair or unconscionable collection methods; conduct which harasses, oppresses or abuses any debtor; the making of any false, misleading, or deceptive statements in connection with a debt; contact with people other than the debtor (with some exceptions); and requires that collectors make certain disclosures. The FDCPA also requires debt collectors to notify debtors about their ability to challenge the validity of a debt and to provide other basic information.

A consumer who sues and proves a violation of the FDCPA is entitled to his actual damages (including emotional distress), statutory damages of up to $1,000, reasonable attorney’s fees, and the costs of suit. Once a violation is proven, the FDCPA is a strict liability statute. A plaintiff does not need to show intentional conduct or any actual damages to prevail.

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