We have watched with dismay as report after report rolls in with bad financial news. Just like other Americans, many individuals and families here in the Chicago area are having more trouble making ends meet right now and may be at risk of losing their homes. Because our consumer rights and debt collection abuse prevention lawyers handle consumer litigation in Chicago, Oak Brook, Naperville and other parts of Illinois, we are particularly concerned about unfair and abusive practices by bill collectors, who many people may be hearing from more and more these days. Many consumers don’t realize it, but we are actually protected under federal law from some of the worst excesses of collection agencies by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The FDCPA prohibits abusive and deceptive conduct by companies that collect debts. This covers a wide variety of practices, including misleading statements and outright lies, threats, abusive or foul language, attempts to embarrass the consumer publicly, bypassing the consumer’s lawyer and tacking on fees or interest the consumer never agreed to. Under the law, debt collectors may not harass you with repeated unnecessary phone calls, call you names, use a raised voice or curse words, or call you at work after you’ve explained in writing that your employer does not allow it. If they threaten lawsuits, wage garnishments or other legal actions, those actions must be possible and they must follow through.
In addition, the law requires debt collectors to follow certain rules, including:
• Identifying themselves as debt collectors.
• Explaining that anything you say to them may be used to collect the debt.
• Limit contact with you to between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., your time, unless you agree to more
• Providing information about the original debt, including the name and address of the company you originally owed and a written validation of the debt if you request one.
• Notifying you of your right to dispute the debt within 30 days of receiving written information on it.
• Suing you only in the proper court — usually, this is either the court where you live or in the area where you originally incurred the debt.
As anyone who has ever interacted with one of these companies knows, violations of these rules and other despicable conduct by debt collectors is sadly common. As consumer lawyers, we have witnessed some outrageous conduct by these companies and their representatives. Fortunately, consumers have the right to sue debt collectors who break the FDCPA outright. Furthermore, the FDCPA is a “strict liability” law, which means you need not prove that the bill collector was careless or had a bad intent in order to collect financial compensation; you only need to prove that it broke the law.
At Lubin Austermuehle, we are proud of our FDCPA practice and the efforts of our Chicago, Naperville and Oak Brook trial lawyers to stop debt collector abuse. Our FDCPA practice is part of our broader Illinois consumer rights litigation practice. If you believe your rights under this law have been violated in Illinoisor near by states, you are welcome to contact us for help getting fair compensation and stopping the abuse.