The FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act): 3 Myths

The FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act): 3 Myths

Think you've got the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices
figured out? Don't be so sure. While nothing can take the
place of a lawyer's advice, if you've at least overcome these three biggest
myths about the law, you may save yourself a lot of money and

FDCPA Myth 3: the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the only law
governing collections

Fact: The FDCPA is a US federal law. Each state has additional laws that
govern fair debt collection practices. Some portions of those laws may
have been invalidated by the federal law. But, as a general rule, state
laws are valid if they provide greater protections (or restrictions,
depending on your point of view), and invalid if they allow debt collectors
too much leeway. Meanwhile, other countries have their own laws, which may
or may not apply if the collector or debtor is currently located outside
the US.

Reality: it is important to keep in mind all the relevant state laws. Those
state laws may include the laws of up to three or even more states: the
debtor's current state of residence, business, and/or work; the debt
collector's state; and the state of any outside collection agency. The
multiplicity of laws is just one reason why lawyers are so often brought
into the collections process, especially when the amounts are large.

Debt collections that cross national borders are notoriously complicated,
whether it's a US collector seeking payment from a foreign national or vice
versa. That's just one reason that businesses that have a large customer
base in another country will often open a branch office there.

FDCPA Myth 2: if a collector violates fair debt collection practices,
the debt is thrown out.

Fact: it's true that unfair debt collection practices will likely cost the
collector the judge's sympathy if the collections go to court. But the Act
does not say that the debt itself will necessarily be invalidated.

That may be why some unscrupulous collectors still violate the law. Of
course, as already noted, breaking the law is not a good idea, since the
collectors will lose much if not all of whatever moral standing they might
have had. Besides, who wants to be sued for damages- especially by the
person who still owes you money?

Reality: it's in the best interest of anyone who owes money to document any
FDCPA violations, and in the best interest of debt collectors to follow
fair debt collection practices scrupulously.

The Number-One FDCPA Myth: the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is
hard to follow

Fact: the Act's requirements are nothing more than common sense and basic
courtesy. The days of debtors' prison or publishing debtors' names in the
newspaper are over, and threats are strictly for the mafia. Any attempt to
collect a debt through humiliation or intimidation, or anything hinting at
intimidation or humiliation, should be avoided.

Reality: The vast majority of violations could have been avoided if the debt
collectors had simply put themselves in the other person's shoes and
thought about how they would feel if they were treated in the same way.
This also means that it is not in fact easy for debtors to get out of their
obligations by turning the tables on the organizations to which they owe

In short, we've come a long way since the days when debtors might have ended
up in the stocks, and the FDCPA is largely to thank. But if you take fair
debt collection practices lightly, you may find your troubles make a day in
the stocks look pleasant.

Joel Walsh is a regular contributor to Collection Agency Information
( Get the inside story on
collections, including links to the websites of the leading collection
agencies and href="">information about fair
debt collection practices

Joel Walsh