Lawsuits against debt collectors on the rise in 2013

While the U.S. economy is slowly recovering from the Great Recession that began in 2008, many people are still struggling to make ends meet and pay all of their bills. Debt collection agencies have become more aggressive in their tactics, despite federal and state laws that protect consumers from abusive debt collection practices. Consumers suffering from debt collector harassment have been taking a stand and protecting themselves by filing lawsuits against debt collectors who violate the law, in an effort to hold debt collectors accountable. Data from U.S. district courts for April 2013 showed that lawsuits against debt collectors have been increasing.

Three types of lawsuits increasing

An analysis of lawsuits filed in U.S. district courts completed by WebRecon LLC showed that lawsuits alleging violations of three consumer protections acts increased in April 2013. The number of lawsuits claiming that debt collectors violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act rose to 1,125 in April, an increase of 14 percent from the 987 of such lawsuits consumers filed in March. FDCPA lawsuits filed in April 2013 also showed an 8 percent increase over the number of these suits filed in April 2012.

Consumers filed 232 suits alleging violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which represented an increase of 38.1 percent over the 168 suits filed in March and a 32 percent increase over the 176 filed in April 2012. The most dramatic increase in consumer protection lawsuits dealt with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which sets rules for telephone solicitors. Consumers filed 156 lawsuits claiming violations of the TCPA, up 10.1 percent from the 141 filed in March and up 82 percent from the 86 filed in April 2012.

FDCPA protections

In 1977, Congress recognized that consumers needed protection from abusive debt collection practices. In response, they passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which sets parameters on debt collectors' behavior. The law applies to third party debt collectors, not original creditors. Once an original creditor has sold a debt to a collection agency, that collection agency is bound by the restrictions put forth in the FDCPA. Among other things, the FDCPA states that debt collectors may not:

  • Use threatening, obscene or harassing language with consumers
  • Call before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
  • Call repeatedly
  • Misrepresent the amount a person owes
  • Call a person at work if the collector knows that the person may not take personal calls at work
  • Discuss debt with third parties without permission
  • Pretend to be members of law enforcement or attorneys
  • Send documents intended to look like official court documents
  • Demand consumers pay interest or fees not allowed by law
  • Threaten legal action against consumers unless the collector actually intends to take such action
  • Continue communication after a consumer has sent a written request to cease contact

Talk to an attorney

The increasing number of lawsuits claiming violations of the FDCPA and other consumer protection laws shows how aggressive debt collectors have become in their efforts to squeeze money out of those who are often least able to afford it. If you are struggling financially and have been victim of debt collector harassment, speak with an experienced debt relief lawyer who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of all of your options.