The Number One Complaint by ProQuest


More Info
           Number One
           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,”
To top