Understanding Your Debt Collection Rights
TITLE 15. Commerce and Trade CHAPTER 41. Consumer Credit Protection
15 USCS prec § 1692
§ 1692. Congressional findings and declaration of purpose
(a) Abusive practices. There is abundant evidence of the use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices by many debt collectors. Abusive debt collection practices contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy.
§ 1692a. Definitions
As used in this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.]--
(1) The term "Commission" means the Federal Trade Commission.
(3) The term "consumer" means any natural person obligated or allegedly obligated to pay any debt.
(4) The term "creditor" means any person who offers or extends credit creating a debt or to whom a debt is owed, but such term does not include any person to the extent that he receives an assignment or transfer of a debt in default solely for the purpose of facilitating collection of such debt for another.
(5) The term "debt" means any obligation or alleged obligation of a consumer to pay money arising out of a transaction in which the money, property, insurance, or services which are the subject of the transaction are primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, whether or not such obligation has been reduced to judgment.
(6) The term "debt collector" means any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another. Notwithstanding the exclusion provided by clause (F) of the last sentence of this paragraph, the term includes any creditor who, in the process of collecting his own debts, uses any name other than his own which would indicate that a third person is collecting or attempting to collect such debts. For the purpose of section 808(6) [15 USCS § 1692f(6)], such term also includes any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the enforcement of security interests. The term does not include--
(7) The term "location information" means a consumer's place of abode and his telephone number at such place, or his place of employment.
(8) The term "State" means any State, territory, or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any political subdivision of any of the foregoing.
§ 1692b. Acquisition of location information
Any debt collector communicating with any person other than the consumer for the purpose of acquiring location information about the consumer shall--
(1) identify himself, state that he is confirming or correcting location information concerning the consumer, and, only if expressly requested, identify his employer;
(2) not state that such consumer owes any debt;
(3) not communicate with any such person more than once unless requested to do so by such person or unless the debt collector reasonably believes that the earlier response of such person is erroneous or incomplete and that such person now has correct or complete location information;
(4) not communicate by post card;
(5) not use any language or symbol on any envelope or in the contents of any communication effected by the mails or telegram that indicates that the debt collector is in the debt collection business or that the communication relates to the collection of a debt; and
(6) after the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with regard to the subject debt and has knowledge of, or can readily ascertain, such attorney's name and address, not communicate with any person other than that attorney, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to communication from the debt collector.
§ 1692c. Communication in connection with debt collection
(a) Communication with the consumer generally. Without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt--
(b) Communication with third parties. Except as provided in section 804 [15 USCS § 1692b], without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector, or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as reasonably necessary to effectuate a post judgment judicial remedy, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than the consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.
§ 1692d. Harassment or abuse
A debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:
(1) The use or threat of use of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person.
(2) The use of obscene or profane language or language the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader.
(3) The publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a consumer reporting agency or to persons meeting the requirements of section 603(f) or 604(3) of this Act [15 USCS § § 1681a(f) or 1681b(3)].
(4) The advertisement for sale of any debt to coerce payment of the debt.
(5) Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.
(6) Except as provided in section 804 [15 USCS § 1692b], the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller's identity.
§ 1692e. False or misleading representations
A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:
(1) The false representation or implication that the debt collector is vouched for, bonded by, or affiliated with the United States or any State, including the use of any badge, uniform, or facsimile thereof.
(2) The false representation of--
(3) The false representation or implication that any individual is an attorney or that any communication is from an attorney.
(4) The representation or implication that nonpayment of any debt will result in the arrest or imprisonment of any person or the seizure, garnishment, attachment, or sale of any property or wages of any person unless such action is lawful and the debt collector or creditor intends to take such action.
(5) The threat to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken.
(6) The false representation or implication that a sale, referral, or other transfer of any interest in a debt shall cause the consumer to--
(7) The false representation or implication that the consumer committed any crime or other conduct in order to disgrace the consumer.
(8) Communicating or threatening to communicate to any person credit information which is known or which should be known to be false, including the failure to communicate that a disputed debt is disputed.
(9) The use or distribution of any written communication which simulates or is falsely represented to be a document authorized, issued, or approved by any court, official, or agency of the United States or any State, or which creates a false impression as to its source, authorization, or approval.
(10) The use of any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a consumer.
(11) The failure to disclose in the initial written communication with the consumer and, in addition, if the initial communication with the consumer is oral, in that initial oral communication, that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose, and the failure to disclose in subsequent communications that the communication is from a debt collector, except that this paragraph shall not apply to a formal pleading made in connection with a legal action.
(12) The false representation or implication that accounts have been turned over to innocent purchasers for value.
(13) The false representation or implication that documents are legal process.
(14) The use of any business, company, or organization name other than the true name of the debt collector's business, company, or organization.
(15) The false representation or implication that documents are not legal process forms or do not require action by the consumer.
(16) The false representation or implication that a debt collector operates or is employed by a consumer reporting agency as defined by section 603(f) of this Act [15 USCS § 1681a(f)].
§ 1692f. Unfair practices
A debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:
(1) The collection of any amount (including any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law.
(2) The acceptance by a debt collector from any person of a check or other payment instrument postdated by more than five days unless such person is notified in writing of the debt collector's intent to deposit such check or instrument not more than ten nor less than three business days prior to such deposit.
(3) The solicitation by a debt collector of any postdated check or other postdated payment instrument for the purpose of threatening or instituting criminal prosecution.
(4) Depositing or threatening to deposit any postdated check or other postdated payment instrument prior to the date on such check or instrument.
(5) Causing charges to be made to any person for communications by concealment of the true purpose of the communication. Such charges include, but are not limited to, collect telephone calls and telegram fees.
(6) Taking or threatening to take any nonjudicial action to effect dispossession or disablement of property if--
(7) Communicating with a consumer regarding a debt by post card.
(8) Using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector's address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails or by telegram, except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business.
§ 1692g. Validation of debts
(a) Notice of debt; contents. Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing--
(b) Disputed debts. If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period described in subsection (a) that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.
§ 1692h. Multiple debts
If any consumer owes multiple debts and makes any single payment to any debt collector with respect to such debts, such debt collector may not apply such payment to any debt which is disputed by the consumer and, where applicable, shall apply such payment in accordance with the consumer's directions.
§ 1692i. Legal actions by debt collectors
(a) Venue. Any debt collector who brings any legal action on a debt against any consumer shall--
(b) Authorization of actions. Nothing in this title [15 USCS §§ 1692 et seq.] shall be construed to authorize the bringing of legal actions by debt collectors.
15 USCS § 1692j
§ 1692j. Furnishing certain deceptive forms
(a) It is unlawful to design, compile, and furnish any form knowing that such form would be used to create the false belief in a consumer that a person other than the creditor of such consumer is participating in the collection of or in an attempt to collect a debt such consumer allegedly owes such creditor, when in fact such person is not so participating.
15 USCS § 1692k
§ 1692k. Civil liability
(a) Amount of damages. Except as otherwise provided by this section, any debt collector who fails to comply with any provision of this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.] with respect to any person is liable to such person in an amount equal to the sum of--
(b) Factors considered by court. In determining the amount of liability in any action under subsection (a), the court shall consider, among other relevant factors--
(c) Intent. A debt collector may not be held liable in any action brought under this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.] if the debt collector shows by a preponderance of evidence that the violation was not intentional and resulted from a bona fide error notwithstanding the maintenance of procedures reasonably adapted to avoid any such error.
15 USCS § 1692l
§ 1692l. Administrative enforcement
(a) Federal Trade Commission. Compliance with this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.] shall be enforced by the Commission, except to the extent that enforcement of the requirements imposed under this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.] is specifically committed to another agency under subsection (b). For purpose of the exercise by the Commission of its functions and powers under the Federal Trade Commission Act [15 USCS § § 41 et seq.], a violation of this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.] shall be deemed an unfair or deceptive act or practice in violation of that Act [15 USCS § § 41 et seq.]. All of the functions and powers of the Commission under the Federal Trade Commission Act [15 USCS § § 41 et seq.] are available to the Commission to enforce compliance by any person with this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.], irrespective of whether that person is engaged in commerce or meets any other jurisdictional tests in the Federal Trade Commission Act [15 USCS § § 41 et seq.], including the power to enforce the provisions of this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.] in the same manner as if the violation had been a violation of a Federal Trade Commission trade regulation rule.
The terms used in paragraph (1) that are not defined in this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.] or otherwise defined in section 3(s) of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. 1813(s)) shall have the meaning given to them in section 1(b) of the International Banking Act of 1978 (12 U.S.C. 3101).
15 USCS § 1692m
§ 1692m. Reports to Congress by the Commission; views of other Federal agencies
(a) Not later than one year after the effective date of this title and at one-year intervals thereafter, the Commission shall make reports to the Congress concerning the administration of its functions under this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.], including such recommendations as the Commission deems necessary or appropriate. In addition, each report of the Commission shall include its assessment of the extent to which compliance with this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.] is being achieved and a summary of the enforcement actions taken by the Commission under section 814 of this title [15 USCS § 1692l]
15 USCS § 1692n
§ 1692n. Relation to State laws
This title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.] does not annul, alter, or affect, or exempt any person subject to the provisions of this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.] from complying with the laws of any State with respect to debt collection practices, except to the extent that those laws are inconsistent with any provision of this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.], and then only to the extent of the inconsistency. For purposes of this section, a State law is not inconsistent with this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.] if the protection such law affords any consumer is greater than the protection provided by this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.].
15 USCS § 1692o
§ 1692o. Exemption for State regulation
The Commission shall by regulation exempt from the requirements of this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.] any class of debt collection practices within any State if the Commission determines that under the law of that State that class of debt collection practices is subject to requirements substantially similar to those imposed by this title [15 USCS § § 1692 et seq.], and that there is adequate provision for enforcement.
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