Can I Sue a Collection Agency for Harassment or Abuse?

In many cases you can sue a collection agency for harassment, abuse, or deception. Collection agencies are governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) which prohibits abusive or harassing actions when collecting a debt. Most states also have similar prohibitions under which you can also sue.

The reasons for which you can sue a collection agency can vary. For example, under the FDCPA a collection agency that calls you too often, too early in the morning, or too late at night can be held legally responsible for those calls. You can also sue a collection agency for making false threats against you. In other words, if a debt collector does not intend to sue you it cannot threaten to sue you. The collection agency also cannot threaten to garnish your wages unless it has already obtained a judgment against you. Threatening to have you criminally prosecuted is also an actionable violation.

Other actions can also violate the FDCPA. For example, a collection agency cannot sue you for a debt that is outside the statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations vary according to state law and the manner in which the debt was incurred. A collection agency also cannot collect a debt that is fully paid, falsely claim it is not a debt collector, or sue you in an improper venue.

Under the FDCPA you can sue a collection agency if it has taken any of the above acts or taken any other abusive action against you. Proceed carefully however because there are many tricks and traps under the FDCPA that can quickly cause you to lose your case. Consult with a consumer rights protection attorney for best results. A good one will know how to handle any pitfalls in your case and will help you on a contingency basis so you won’t have to pay any attorney’s fees unless you win your case.

FTC Complaint? Don’t Bother.

Thinking of filing an FTC complaint? Don’t bother. Yes, the FTC is the federal agency charged with helping consumers resolve complaints but the simple fact is that they will not actually help any individual consumers. Indeed, they will not help you.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, however. The FTC shouldn’t be handling individual consumer complaints — no government agency should. Government simply shouldn’t have that kind of authority or control over our daily lives. Instead, consumers should be in charge of advocating their own disputes whether on their own or by hiring a private attorney. Indeed, numerous state and federal laws empower consumers to act as private attorneys general for that very purpose. Consumers are simply better at advocating their own interests than the government could ever be.

Filing an FTC complaint is not a total waste of time however. The FTC complaints filed by consumers each year are helpful to consumers as a whole so it may be worthwhile to file one if you want to help other consumers as a group. Don’t be fooled however, the FTC will do literally nothing to help you in your individual complaint.

Filing an FTC complaint is only a waste of time if you are trying to get a refund or other monetary compensation for a deceptive sales practice. In that case, the far better approach is to hire an experienced consumer protection attorney. A lawyer with experience in consumer complaints will be able to obtain results where filing an FTC complaint will lead nowhere.

The bottom line is that if you are a victim of a deceptive sales practice and you are considering filing an FTC complaint because you think it will help you get a refund, think again. If you want a refund hire a consumer protection attorney or file a consumer complaint in small claims court. You are your own best advocate. Filing an FTC complaint will not help you get a refund or other compensation you deserve.

Consumer Watchdogs are the Best Form of Consumer Protection

Consumer watchdogs fight for everyone’s consumer rights.  Consumer protection legislation has been passed in every state to allow consumers to act as these watchdogs, legally known as private attorneys general, to protect and enforce their consumer rights when those rights are threatened by abusive or deceptive companies.  In Utah, for example, the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act (UCSPA) allows consumers to sue companies that act in a deceptive, fraudulent, or abusive manner.  Most states have similar consumer rights laws.

Without these laws consumers would find themselves venerable to abusive and deceptive sales practices with little recourse.  Consumer watchdog complaints would go largely unresolved.  For example, in door-to-door sales the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act allows a three day right to cancel the agreement whereas without the Act no such right would exist.  Other consumer rights are also protected under the Act.  For example, companies cannot lie about the benefits, uses, sponsorships, or performance characteristics of a product or service nor can they falsely claim a used item is new.

The Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act also allows consumer watchdogs to recover a minimum award of $2000 even if actual damages are less.  This is great news because many consumer disputes involve damages that are substantially lower than $2000.  This minimum award greatly increases the risk to a deceptive company if the case winds up in court which encourages them to seek settlements for more reasonable resolutions without the need for judicial intervention.

In complicated cases, consumer protection lawyers can help you, the consumer watchdog, enforce consumer rights laws but some consumers can do so on their own without legal assistance.  For them, small claims courts are the best way to recover money from a company that has harmed you and refuses to issue a refund.  Small claims courts use simplified rules of evidence and procedure to allow consumers their day in court without the expense of hiring a consumer attorney.  Many consumer protection attorneys, however, offer services on a contingency basis allowing consumers to hire an attorney essentially for free since the attorney only gets paid from the proceeds of a settlement or verdict is the consumer’s favor.

When consumers sue a company for deceptive sales practices they are consumer watchdogs for everyone whether they hire an attorney or handle the case themselves.  Lawsuits often awaken the company owners to the consequences of their wrongful behavior though unfortunately some abusive companies are already aware they are abusing consumers since doing so is profitable.  For them, ignoring consumer complaints is standard procedure since many consumers do not understand their rights or how to enforce those rights.  In those cases, the best consumer protection possible is for consumer watchdogs to act as private attorneys general and hold abusive and deceptive companies accountable.

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