The good news is that debt collector harassment is not legal, and there are federal and Ohio laws that prevent unfair debt collection. Both the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act protect debtors from abusive, deceptive and unfair debt collection practices. If collectors refuse to stop these practices, there are steps you can take to make them stop, including suing them in federal or state court within one year from the date the violation occurred.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by debt collector harassment, getting legal assistance is essential. The skilled and seasoned Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer understand all aspects of debt and the ways creditors attempt to collect it. We offer a free consultation to examine your individual situation and help you get back on the road to recovery. Call one of our conveniently located office branches at 614-228-4435 (Columbus), 937-222-7472 (Dayton), or 877-654-5297 (Cincinnati) or email for your free consultation.
What the Laws Say
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The FDCPA is a federal law governing how debt collectors are allowed to pursue consumer debts. It does not apply to the original creditor who gave you the loan, but to third-party debt collectors who buy your loan at a discount or take a percentage of what they collect.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector MUST:
- Identify that they are debt collectors and let consumers (debtors) know that any information obtained will be used for purposes of debt collection.
- Send written correspondence to the consumer’s home address within 5 days of the first communication that says who they are, who they are collecting on behalf of, the balance owed, and that the consumer has 30 days to dispute the debt and demand it be validated.
- If validation is asked for, the collector must stop trying to collect the debt until validated.
- If the consumer provides a post-dated form of payment (such as a check), the collector must provide written notice of the intent to deposit it.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector CANNOT:
- Call before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. or at any time they are notified that it is inconvenient to call.
- Tell others that a debt is owed.
- Call the consumer’s place of employment if advised not to do so, or let a telephone keep ringing unreasonably.
- Use any profane, harassing, oppressive, or abusive language or conduct.
- Make misrepresentations of facts, threaten arrest or criminal prosecution, or send false information to credit bureaus.
In addition, there are Ohio statutes on debt collection. The Ohio Fair Debt Collection Practices Act § 1319.12 has requirements for collection agencies to start litigation for the collection of an assigned account and states that this must be done in a court located in the county in which the debtor resides. Also, the act requires collection agencies to use an attorney admitted to the practice of law in Ohio and to comply with the federal FDCPA.
What Can Be Done if You are Unfairly Harassed?
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debtors can:
- Make collectors stop calling.
- Recover any actual damages and/or a statutory damage of up to $1,000.
- Recover attorney’s fees and court costs.
To increase the chances of winning a lawsuit against collection agencies you should:
- Document everything. Record dates and times of calls, names and numbers of debt collectors, highlights of your conversation, and whether the collector was abusive.
- Record debt collector calls. Ohio allows “one party consent.” As long as you wish to record the call, you do not have to disclose that you are doing so. Recorded threats can be used as evidence.
- Request a written letter validating the debt, and seek proof of what you owe within the required 30 days.
- Dispute the debt in writing, even after the 30-day period. You can send a letter requesting that the debt collector “cease and desist all communications.” If you disagree that you owe the debt, you can send a letter to the debt collector stating that you do not owe and “refuse to pay” the debt.
- File a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/Individuals-and-Families/Consumers/File-A-Complaint or (800) 282-0515 and with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or (877) FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).
Filing for Bankruptcy
If you have gotten into a situation where you are drowning in debt, you may want to consider filing for bankruptcy, which offers powerful protections against debt collectors and collection lawsuits. Once a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case is filed, there is an automatic stay which prevents creditors from contacting you for any reason and protects against lawsuits, foreclosure and garnishment.
While filing for bankruptcy may be a last resort, often it is the best solution for debtors who need a chance for a fresh financial start and a path to a brighter future. If you’re a good candidate for bankruptcy, filing can keep creditors from harassing you and seizing your possessions, allow debts to be forgiven, and provide a way for you to keep many of your assets and begin to rebuild your life.
Contact Us Today For A Free Initial Consultation
If you find yourself overwhelmed by creditor harassment, the experienced Ohio debt-relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer can help. We offer a free consultation to evaluate your entire financial situation and determine the best fit for your particular circumstances. We will make sure you are aware of all your options and help you decide on the financial recovery path that makes sense in your individual case. We know the courts and the system and will walk you through the process every step of the way.
Delaying can only worsen your situation, so call the Ohio attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer today. Call one of our conveniently located office branches at 614-228-4435 (Columbus), 937-222-7472 (Dayton), or 877-654-5297 (Cincinnati) or email for your free consultation.