Stop Creditor and Collection Companies Harassing Telephone Calls | Our Rights in Spokane Washington
As a bankruptcy attorney in Spokane Washington, I hear it all the time. Either creditors harass consumers for payment or they hire collection companies to contact consumers and attempt to collect a legitimate claim.
Usually, the creditor has a valid claim or that the debtor owes money to the creditor. The question often is: how far can a creditor go? What can a consumer do to stop the harassment? What are our specific and local rights in Spokane, Washington?
These are good questions and truthfully, questions like this, encourage me to talk about this subject.
How far can a creditor go when attempting to collect on a legitimate claim for money owed?
Creditors have a right and a duty to collect on the money owed to them. They can initiate legal actions and garnish wages, sell assets, or even foreclose on real estate if the proper legal process is followed.
There are, however, regulations they must follow. The first set of rules or laws that consumers may use to protect themselves from harassing telephone calls and other contact is outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This is a federal law, codified under 15 U.S.C. § 1692 –1692p.
The code, as any federal code, is long and it can be confusing . Some of the rights consumers have are:
– Creditors cannot contact third parties to collect on a debt for someone else. A creditor cannot contact an employer, a parent, neighbor, etc. to collect on a debt for someone else. However, a debtor can contact a cosigner on a loan.
– Creditors cannot tell a consumer that the debt will be referred to an attorney or a law office for collection IF, and ONLY IF, the creditor or debt collector does not have the intention to do so. If this is an empty threat, then it is actionable. The issue sometimes proves that the creditor or debt collector does not have the “intention” to execute the threat.
– Creditors cannot make unreasonable telephone calls. Telephone calls before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. are suspect. Telephone calls with threats of arrest, physical force, or defamatory remarks (i.e. racial slurs) are unlawful.
– If the creditor calls you at work, they cannot tell the employer the purpose of the call. You can request (please see below) they do not contact you at work.
– Creditors cannot misrepresent or mislead a debtor. Sending documents making them look like they are from a court, an official state office, or other official office is unlawful.
– Creditors cannot tell a consumer that if they do not pay, that they will be arrested.
– Asking questions to “make it look like” they are conducting a survey or collecting general information when seeking information to collect their debt is also unlawful.
What can a consumer do to stop the harassment?
When consumers cannot handle the amount and frequency of telephone calls or want to stop creditors from calling them, they can ask (tell the creditor to stop calling). The creditor is supposed to stop the telephone calls, this rarely works.
It is important to note that the consumers could seek damages for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 –1692p. However, most consumers fail to have enough evidence to show the violation.
If a consumer tells a creditor to “stop calling them,” then the creditor can simply deny the allegation. Since the consumer would be brining the action, the burden to prove damages is up to the consumer. Therefore, evidence is what a consumer should be collecting to prevail.
There is no better evidence than a certified letter to the creditor. The letter should state that the consumer only wants to be contacted in writing. The creditor has a right to contact the consumer, but they can do that only in writing if you request.
The creditor could not use the argument that they were not notified to stop calling if you send a certified letter. Most creditors will obey a certified letter as they know you have documentation that could prove them liable. We have enclosed here a sample letter you can use.
What are our specific and local rights in Spokane, Washington?
There are no specific rights in Spokane County. There are however further requirements that a creditor and debt collector must comply with in Washington. RCW 19.16.250 provides that no creditor or debt collector can engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
Creditors cannot misrepresent they have a badge or that they are affiliated with law enforcement. They cannot publish a list or black lists debtors where the identity of those debtors can be established.
You must review that RCW to see the multiple requirements local creditors and debt collectors are subject to.
If a consumer is inundated with collection calls, letters, and other forms of collection (lawsuits, garnishments, judgments, etc), then that person can seek a free consultation and explore their options. Our office offers a free financial consultation where we can establish if the creditor has committed any violation, if the consumer is eligible to protection under bankruptcy law, and/or if there are other avenues to protect the consumer.
To contact our office, please call (509) 927-3840.