Proposed Changes to FDCPA Would Help But May Not Become Law
Congress is currently considering a number of proposals to amend the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the federal law that allows consumers to sue debt collectors that engage in abusive, harassing or unfair practices in the collection of debt.
None of the proposals are law yet, and as anybody who knows how a bill becomes a law can tell you, it is unlikely that many of these will ever become law. However, there is hope that some may gain enough support to be codified as part of the FDCPA. Some of the proposals to survive and make it out of congressional committee include:
-A proposal that would make it a violation of the FDCPA to contact a consumer electronically (email or text) without the consumer’s approval. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) already includes this protection as to text messages, but not emails. The law would also prohibit debt collectors from sending an unlimited number of texts and emails to a consumer, regardless of whether consent is given.
Another proposal seeks to extend the FDCPA to cover small business loans. Currently, the FDCPA only protects against abusive collection of consumer debt; business debt does not get the same (or any) protection. However, many ordinary consumers take out small business loans to pay for expenses, and the law, if passed, would cover and protect from abusive collection of these loans.
Service members may get additional protection with a proposal that would make it illegal for a debt collector to threaten a service member’s rank or security clearance. It is currently illegal for a debt collector to do this anyway, but the law would provide specific protections in these situations.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that the FDCPA does not protect consumers in non-judicial foreclosure states (states where foreclosure can occur without a lawsuit). A proposed law would specifically extend FDCPA protections to non-judicial foreclosure states, thus overturning the Supreme Court’s ruling.
There is some debate over whether debt buyers must comply with and whether they can be sued under the FDCPA. This is because the FDCPA generally makes it illegal to violate its provisions when collecting a debt owned by others. However, debt buyers own the debt they are collecting, thus fitting an exception to the FDCPA, according to some courts. A proposed new law would clarify that debt buyers can be sued under the FDCPA.
Long Road Ahead
Of course, even if these bills do pass the House, they would still have to pass the Senate, where lobbyists and big business corporate interests are much more powerful. That means that it may be unlikely that any of these proposals become law.
Still, they at least evidence a recognition that the FDCPA has been weakened by recent court decisions, and that the protections of the FDCPA need to be expanded, not reduced.
If you have been victimized by abusive or harassing debt collectors you may be entitled to damages. Contact Jacobs Legal to speak with one of our Miami consumer rights attorneys today.