To effectively deal with debt collectors and enforce your rights under the law, you should learn what collectors can and can’t do. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the primary federal law that restricts the manner in which debt collectors can communicate with you. Among other things, this law regulates the time of day that collection agencies can call you. (Find out what you should expect if your debt goes to collection.)
Debt Collectors Can’t Make Early or Late Calls
Under the FDCPA, a debt collector must not contact you at any “unusual time” or at a time that it knows or should know is inconvenient for you, unless you agree otherwise. The FDCPA explicitly prohibits collection calls before 8:00 in the morning or after 9:00 at night, absent special circumstances or your permission. (15 U.S.C. § 1692c).
Debt Collectors Also Can’t Harass You
Debt collectors are also prohibited from harassing you. If a debt collector is calling you multiple times a day or calling you with the intent of harassing or annoying you, then it might be violating the FDCPA. (15 U.S.C § 1692d).
How to Stop Debt Collectors From Calling You
To get a debt collector to stop contacting you, you can send a written request (called a "cease and desist" letter) to the collector. Under the FDCPA, if you send this kind of letter, the collector has to stop contacting you except to tell you that it’s ending communications, or that it might—or will—sue you or use another legal remedy to collect the debt. (15 U.S.C. § 1692c).
FDCPA Restrictions Apply to Debt Collectors, Not Creditors—Sometimes Debt Buyers
The requirements and limitations under the FDCPA apply to debt collectors, but generally not creditors. (Learn how creditors can collect secured and unsecured debts when debtors don't pay.)
If the creditor is a debt buyer—a person or business who regularly buys debts and tries to collect on them—the FDCPA might or might not apply depending on the circumstances. (To learn more, see Does the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Apply to Debt Buyers?)
Consumer Protection Laws That Apply to Creditors
If a creditor calls you early in the morning, the call might be considered an “unfair or deceptive act or practice” under the Fair Trade Commission Act (FTCA). A creditor that fails to follow standards set by the FDCPA could violate the FTCA. (Read about different consumer protection laws.)
Also, your state might have a fair debt collection law that applies to creditors.
Talk to an Attorney
If you need help dealing with a debt collector, creditor, or debt buyer—especially if you think you’re being unfairly harassed—consider talking to an attorney to find out about your different options.