By Alexander P. Narita, Esq.
As winter approaches, we slowly come closer to the holiday season and the familial warmth it brings with it. For most of us, the holiday season is a time to reconnect with family and friends while exchanging gifts and stories. However, for some, the holiday season can be a time where additional debt is taken on. This year, many of us will struggle with making these additional
purchases due to the global financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We at the Voloshen Law Firm want to give you a heads up about your consumer rights before you pull out your credit cards at the register.
Here are a few tips consumers should know about as they prepare to make some mid-pandemic purchases:
Consumer protection from unfair debt collection practices fall under the coverage of the “Fair Debt Collection Practices Act”, which can be found in 15 U.S.C. $ 1692. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA only protects debt that falls under the category of “consumer” debt. Consumer debt can be boiled down to obligations incurred primarily for personal, family or household use, U.S.C. $ 1692a (5).
A few actions that can be taken to protect oneself from unfair debt collection practices are:
1) First and foremost, debt most always be validated. According to the FCCPA, debt collectors must first inform debtors that they have a right to validate their debt. The collectors must use standard language that would inform the “least sophisticated consumer” of their right to have debt validated from thirty (30) days of receipt of a collections notice.
Being Aware of What Tactics Are Permitted
2) Second, collectors must refrain from debt collection practices that are abusive. Harassment can take a number of forms. Federal courts have found the following tactics as harassment: calling a debtor’s place of work, calling a debtor continuously throughout the day, threatening that police will come and arrest the debtor, use of profane language, creating a “shame” list, advertising sale of debt, and threatening violence;
Remedies for debtors when creditors violate the FDCPA are the following:
Plaintiffs suing under the FDCPA for unfair collection practices can collecting nominal damages up to $1,000 dollars even if no actual damages are available. Actual damages stemming from a violation can take the form of: personal humiliation, embarrassment, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of job opportunity. Attorney’s fees can be awarded to the prevailing plaintiff.
If you find yourself a victim of unfair consumer collections practices, do not hesitate to contact our office.