What is the Purpose of the FDCPA?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law enacted in 1978, and is located at Title 15 of the United States Code, Sections 1692, et seq.
As the title indicates, the main purpose of the act is to require debt collectors to act fairly in their conduct with consumers who owe debts.
It also only applies to debt collectors, which are defined as persons who collect debt on behalf of third parties, or who purchase debt that is already in default. This means that it usually does not apply to the original creditors who issue credit.
The introductory language of the act itself describes the Congressional findings that went into passage of the FDCPA. Abusive, deceptive, and unfair practices by debt collectors were found to “contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy.” Existing laws against harassment, Congress found, were not strong enough to combat the techniques used by some debt collectors.
Interestingly, the FDCPA was also passed to help protect debt collectors. The collectors who used abusive collection tactics did so because they thought they got better results. Collectors who refrained from abusive tactics were at a strategic disadvantage. So, the introduction to the FDCPA also says that another purpose is to “insure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged.”
The FDCPA is enforced in a two ways. The federal government can enforce it by taking administrative action against debt collectors. And consumers can file individual lawsuits to recover actual damages, statutory damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs. There is a one-year statute of limitations under the FDCPA.
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