For financially stressed consumers, dealing with creditors can be an extremely stressful burden. This is all the more true when creditors attempt to collect debts illegally. Florida’s Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) does provide protections for consumers, as does the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), but as is the case with any law, the specific application of protections is not necessarily clear in every case until a court of law makes certain decisions about ambiguous aspects of the law.
Recently, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida clarified several important points regarding consumer protection law. The most important of these is that a voicemail message asking a debtor to return a call in order to discuss a particular debt can be considered a debt collection communication and is illegal under certain circumstances.
Under the FCCPA, creditors are prohibited from communicating with a debtor or any member of his or her family in a way that could reasonably be interpreted as harassment. Creditors are also prohibited from attempting to communicate with a debtor when the creditor knows the debtor is represented by an attorney with respect to the debt. The TCPA, for its part, restricts creditors’ ability to make use of automated telephone equipment to collect debts. Specifically, creditors must have express consent from the creditor in order to send autodialed phone calls. This rule applies to cell phones as well as wire telephones.
Consumers who feel they have been dealt with illegally by a creditor should, of course, consult an experienced attorney to have their case evaluated and to determine whether it is appropriate to take any legal action. This is all the more important in cases where a creditor is engaging in behavior which is of questionable legality under consumer protection laws.