Debt Collection Harassment

Struggling to figure out how to keep up with your bills and debt payments every month is a frustrating experience.  Dealing with abusive debt collectors once you are behind on your payments can be downright frightening.  The line between what is an acceptable attempt to collect a debt and what constitutes abusive or harassing debt collection can be blurry.  But there are many debt collectors who go well beyond the line and engage in activity that is meant to harass, embarrass, and shame people into making payments.  

Both Texas and the United States have consumer protection statutes in place to protect debtors from abusive and harassing debt collection.  There are many types of activities that are barred under these laws, but for example, a debt collector may not:

  • Use or threaten to use violence or other criminal activity
  • Use obscene or profane language

    Publish a list of consumers who owe debts or refuse to pay debts

  • Cause a phone to ring repeatedly or to call continuously with the intent to annoy or abuse a person

    Call a debtor without disclosing the caller’s identity

  • Make any false or misleading representation related to the debt (or attempt to deceive the person into paying the debt)
  • Contact a person other than the debtor for any reason other than to obtain location or contact information (the debt collector shall not state that the person owes a debt)
  • Collect against a Texas resident without being registered with the Texas Secretary of State and maintaining a bond
  • Falsely accuse a person of fraud or of any other crime
  • Threaten that a person will be arrested for nonpayment of a debt without proper court proceedings
  • Threaten that the debt collector will seize or repossess property without proper court proceedings
  • Threaten to take any action prohibited by law

Under the Federal Debt Collections Practices Act, only a third-party debt collector can be liable for any of the foregoing actions.  This means that a person or company that is attempting to collect its own debt cannot be held liable under the Federal statute.  But the Texas Debt Collection Act provides that a person attempting to collect a debt that violates the Act may be liable regardless of whether it is the person’s debt or if it is a third-party debt collector.

If a debt collector is held liable for violations of these consumer protection statutes, they could be required to pay any actual damages the person has incurred, statutory damages (a penalty imposed by the statute), and pay for the person’s attorney fees and court costs.  Under the Texas statute, it could be possible to obtain exemplary damages (punitive damages) if the debt collectors actions are so egregious to merit such an award.

If you believe that actions taken against you by a debt collector have violated any of the above-listed prohibitions, please give me a call to discuss your particular experience.