Section 806(1) of the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from threatening consumers with violence or criminal action. FTC staff have interpreted this to include implicit as well as explicit threats. According to FTC staff comments, statements such as, "We're not playing around here - we can play tough!" or "We're going to send somebody to collect. . . one way or another," violate Section 806(1) of the FDCPA.In one case, the court concluded a debt collector was in violation of Section 806(2) when he sent a consumer collection letters including "WWJD" at the top-right corner of the page. The consumer contended "WWJD" is an acronym for the phrase "What would Jesus do?" and its inclusion in the letters invokes guilt and "portrays the debtor as a sinner who is going to hell." The court held including "WWJD" on a collection letter was considered harassment under Section 806(2) of the FDCPA.Causing a telephone to ring or engaging a person in conversation repeatedly or continuously is one of the harassing actions specifically enumerated in Section 806(5) of the FDCPA. The FTC's 2010 Annual FDCPA Report shows consumers frequently complain about collectors who repeatedly or continuously place calls to consumers. Based on the report, 46.5 percent of FDCPA complaints received by the FTC in 2009 (41,028 complaints) claimed collectors harassed them by calling repeatedly or continuously. This was the most frequent law violation about which consumers complained during 2009, as it was in 2008 when 34.7 percent of FDCPA complaints stated collectors harassed them by calling repeatedly or continuously.
The Number One Complaint Implementing policies and procedures to avoid harassment can diminish FDCPA violations. By Kristie Carlson 26 I July 2010 Collector D ebt collectors are highly motivated to convince consumers to pay their debts because that is their job. However, like any other business, One of the first lessons a collector should learn debt collectors are governed by laws is that harassment of a consumer that prohibit abusive practices. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) or other individual is both ineffective and state debt collection laws protect consumers’ rights in a variety of ways, including placing certain restrictions on and illegal under the FDCPA. a debt collector’s ability to contact and communicate with consumers. Section 806 of the FDCPA prohibits set forth in Section 806, as well as other number of complaints received— a debt collector from engaging in any behaviors that could be deemed abusive. related to the reported use of obscene, conduct “the natural consequence of profane or otherwise abusive language which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any Use of Threats by debt collectors. According to FTC person in connection with the collection Section 806(1) of the FDCPA staff comments, obscene language of a debt.” prohibits debt collectors from includes the use of religious slurs, Harassment is a leading cause of threatening consumers with violence profanity, calling the consumer a liar or violations under the FDCPA, and or criminal action. FTC staff have deadbeat, and the use of sexual or racial consumers frequently complain about interpreted this to include implicit as descriptions. being harassed by collectors. According well as explicit threats. According to In one case, the court concluded to the Federal Trade Commission’s FTC staff comments, statements such a debt collector was in violation of 2010 FDCPA Annual Report, in 2009, as, “We’re not playing around here—we Section 806(2) when he sent a consumer harassment complaints ranked as the can play tough!” or “We’re going to collection letters including “WWJD” number one type of consumer complaint send somebody to collect… one way or at the top-right corner of the page. The reported. another,” violate Section 806(1) of the consumer contended “WWJD” is an The use of profanity, religious slurs FDCPA. acronym for the phrase “What would or threats asserting physical harm clearly Courts have also ruled on the subject. Jesus do?” and its inclusion in the letters constitute harassment under Section One court held that a handwritten note invokes guilt and “portrays the debtor as 806 of the FDCPA. However, other without postage, left in the consumer’s a sinner who is going to hell.” The court activities that constitute harassment may mailbox, that read, “My special agents held including “WWJD” on a collection not be so clear cut. Failure to provide will remain in your area to collect. letter was considered harassment under meaningful disclosure and frequency of Believe me,”
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