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DEBT COLLECTION PROTECTIONS UNDER THE LAW – PART 2

LIMITATIONS OF THE FDCPA AND A STATE LAW SOLUTION IN FLORIDA

As indicated in the first installment of our Debt Collection Protection series, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) has limitations on its authority. As we covered previously, it is important to note that the FDCPA only governs “collectors.” Under the law, a collector is loosely defined as a person or entity that purchased the debt or is hired to collect a consumer debt for the creditor. Debt originators (i.e. original creditors) are not “collectors” under the FDCPA, and are therefore not covered. [1]

The state of Florida offers consumers further protection under the Florida Consumer Collection Protection Act (“FCCPA”). The Florida law is similar in nature to the FDCPA but offers consumers arguably a greater blanket of protection and the damages a creditor could face for a violation are considerably more severe.

ABUSIVE PRACTICES UNDER THE FCCPA

Under the FCCPA, all creditors can be found liable for damages, including original creditors. The definitions of the FCCPA are more broad and do include creditors directly. Like the FDCPA, the FCCPA prohibits creditors and debt collectors from engaging in abusive, harassing, unfair, fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading practices. The FCCPA offers many of the same protections as the FDCPA and the definitions of abusive activity may sound similar if you have read our previous blog post. Some things that creditors and debt collectors cannot do under the FCCPA include: pretending to be a police officer and acting on behalf of a government agency; using or threatening to use force or violence; communicating, or threatening to communicate, with your employer about the debt, unless they have taken a judgment against you; if you have disputed the debt, reporting, or threatening to report, derogatory information about a disputed debt to a credit reporting agency without also disclosing the existence of your dispute; contacting third parties about your debt; harassing you or your family about the debt; contact you between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. without your permission; holding themselves out as attorneys, or misrepresenting to you that an attorney is involved; filing a lawsuit against you in the wrong venue (suing you in a distant court to make it difficult for you to defend the lawsuit); sending you communications, such as forms and “summons” designed to look like attorney letters or government documents; using obscene, profane, vulgar, or abusive language when communicating with you or your family; threatening or attempting to enforce an illegitimate debt against you, such as a debt that has expired under the statute of limitations; emailing you documents that contain embarrassing words or phrases on a postcard or envelope, and communicating directly with you when they know you are represented by an attorney.

REGISTRATION REQUIREMENT FOR DEBT COLLECTORS UNDER THE FCCPA

The FCCPA requires all debt collectors, including those located out-of-state, to be registered with the State of Florida. Only debt collectors are required to register. Those who are exempt from registration include: original creditors, attorneys, banks and other financial institutions, and real-estate and insurance professionals. [2]

ALLOWABLE DAMAGES UNDER THE FCCPA

Under the FDCPA, damages are capped at $1,000 per claim, plus actual damages and attorney’s fees and costs. The FCCPA differs in that it also specifically permits punitive damages. Assuming the debtor/plaintiff can show conduct that would result in the award of punitive damages; the damages levied against the creditor or debt collector are virtually unlimited. Keep in mind that punitive damages can only be awarded if the alleged conduct rises above the standard of willfulness, to the level of malicious intent. [3] Under the FCCPA, you can also file a complaint with Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation.

KOVAR LAW GROUP CAN HELP

If you believe you have been subject to unfair debt collection practices under the current law, the best thing you can do is seek the help of an experienced attorney. At Kovar Law Group we are well-versed in dealing with these issues and are proficient in gathering the required evidence to secure the best outcome possible. Schedule a free consultation with Kovar Law Group today.



[1] https://hidayricke.com/2015/04/fdcpa-vs-fccpa-similar-names-important-differences/

[2] https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/florida-consumer-collection-practices-act.html

[3] https://hidayricke.com/2015/04/fdcpa-vs-fccpa-similar-names-important-differences/
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