Creditor Harassment and Debt Collection Practices Law.
Representing businesses accused of violating Consumer Debt Collection Practices laws, and representing Consumers who have been harassed by Debt Collectors.
Any business that collects debts from consumers is subject to laws regulating how that business treats the consumer. Any consumer who may or may not owe money is entitled to be treated in a reasonable and professional way so that the consumer is not harassed by a debt collector. Florida has a law that places limits on what a debt collector may do, called the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA).
Third party collectors, such as collection agencies or attorneys who handle debt collection, have even more restrictions and requirements from a Federal law, the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This law does not apply to creditors who collect their own debts, such as a doctor’s office who calls a patient for payment. However, the doctor’s office WILL be subject to the Florida law, the FCCPA. Both laws prohibit a number of improper acts by collectors which include:
· Threats to garnish wages or take away the consumer’s home or personal property when not legally allowed. (Florida protects a consumer’s homestead from most debts that are not a mortgage. Florida also protects the wages of a head of family.)
· Disclosing the debt to anyone (other than the debtor) who does not have a legitimate business need for the information. Even disclosing the debt to a family member or roommate may be a violation. Disclosing the debt to an employer is most likely a violation.
· Telephone calls to the debtor's workplace when not allowed, or during improper times. Improper times are presumed to be before 8:00 a.m or after 9:00 p.m. but may be other times if the collector is informed.
· Continuing to contact the debtor after the debtor is represented by an attorney.
· Continually contacting the debtor with such frequency or in such a manner that it would be harassment. Continuing to contact the debtor after the debtor has advised the collector that the debtor wants no further contact may be harassment.
· Misleading the debtor about the amount of the debt or allowable fees or additional charges.
· Attempting to collect fees or charges when the creditor is not allowed or authorized to collect the fees or charges. This may include unauthorized "late fees" or a "collection fee."
· Obscene or profane language or threats of violence or imprisonment.
· Causing a telephone to ring over and over again to harass the debtor.
· Failing to disclose that a debt is disputed, even to a credit bureau.
· Falsely representing that a communication is from the court or from an attorney.
· Failure to disclose the name of the collector when requested.
· Generally use unfair or harassing acts to try to collect a debt.
The Federal Law (FDCPA) has further requirements for specific notices to be provided to the consumer. These statutes have unique requirements as well as many similar requirements. If a violation of these laws has been committed, the Consumer can recover statutory damages up to $1,000 from the Collector even if the consumer has suffered no harm whatsoever. The Consumer can collect any actual damages suffered as well. These actual damages can include the cost of a higher interest rate on a loan, for example, or emotional distress from abusive collection practices. The attorney’s fees and costs are paid by the Collector. In many cases, a settlement of these cases includes forgiveness of the debt itself in addition to the statutory damages.
If you have been bothered or harassed by a collector, Mr. Coburn can help. Call for a free consultation about your situation to find out whether you have a claim for Creditor Harassment under the Florida or Federal debt collection practices laws. In most cases, you will not have to pay any fees or costs and you may get the debt forgiven. The Creditor Harassment will stop, and you may recover any actual damages you have suffered plus up to $1,000.00 even if you have suffered no actual damages. Please note that the time is short: the law requires that a lawsuit be filed in either one or two years, depending upon the situation.
If you believe that you do not owe the debt, or that the debt collector is trying to collect too much, then call Mr. Coburn for a free consultation to discuss your options. Ignoring the debt collector is usually the wrong thing to do (or not do).
If you are a business who has been sued under the Florida or Federal debt collection laws, Mr. Coburn can help. He has years of experience defending claims under these statutes. He will help you with a cost-effective defense against the claims in either Florida or Federal Courts. If your business made a mistake and committed a violation of the laws, Mr. Coburn will work to minimize your losses. If your business has been accused unfairly, Mr. Coburn will work diligently to protect your business from the improper accusations.
If you are a business that collects debts from consumers, even only once in a while, Mr. Coburn can help you set up a training program that will teach your employees how to avoid claims under these laws. He can provide materials and help you create systems to avoid committing violations of these important laws. Also, if you have a training program in place, you may be able to assert a defense to a claim because any violation was an innocent mistake. Think of it as a kind of insurance. This program is usually provided on a flat fee basis.