CFPB Compliance Bulletin Reminds Debt Collectors that In Person Collection Attempts Often Violation of Federal Law

Debt collection is big business.  According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 15% of consumers have at least one debt in collections.  Third party debt collectors are constantly trying to come up with new ways to improve the rate of collections both in volume and in dollars recovered.  On December 16, 2015 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) Compliance Bulletin 2015-07 reminding debt collectors that visiting a debtor in person at their home or place of employment is likely to be a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

The CFPB bulletin explains that under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), debt collectors are prohibited “from engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices while collecting or attempting to collect consumer debts.”  Prohibited collection tactics include “communicating with a consumer at any time or place that is known or which should be known to be inconvenient to the consumer, or at the consumer’s place of business.”  Collectors are also prohibited from communicating with persons other than the debtor about information relating to the debt in question.

When a debt collector visits a debtor at place of employment, the risk of actual injury and damages to the debtor is greatly heightened.  Despite the fact that such a high percentage of Americans are in collections, there remains a stigma that could cause discrimination at work, and in some industries could be cause for termination of employment.  Visitations to a debtor’s home pose a different set of problems.  A home visitation can be a significant violation of privacy and goes against one of the Congressionally enumerated goals of the FDCPA, which is to protect consumers from collection practices that lead to invasions of individual privacy and marital instability.

Consumer debtors who are facing aggressive debt collection tactics should be aware of their rights.  If a debt collector has visited your place of business or home, your rights may have been violated and you may be entitled to monetary compensation.  Be proactive and meet with an attorney who has experience with consumer rights litigation and the FDCPA.  You can also take advantage of the services provided by the CFPB by filing a consumer complaint through the governmental agency.  It remains rare that consumers received financial compensation through the CFPB, but often times the offending conduct will stop once a complaint has been filed.

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