You should never suffer abuse or harassment just because you owe a debt. However, as a Troy, Ohio Bankruptcy Attorney, I have heard many horror stories. People sometimes fall on hard times. We all make mistakes and getting in over our head is stressful enough. This is why, in 1977, Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Consumers needed protection from the abuses of debt collections. In Ohio, debt collection abuse protection does not stop with the federal law.
The Ohio Attorney General‘s office states, “The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act cover consumer debts used primarily for personal, family or household purposes, such as credit cards, auto loans, utility bills, medical bills, mortgages and some student loans.”
There are three main areas of prohibited practices:
- Abuse and Harassment,
- Misleading or False Statements, and
- Unfair or Unjust Practices.
Abuse and Harassment – A debt collector can not use foul language. They cannot intentionally work to annoy you. They are not allowed to harm or threaten to harm you. A debt collector may not publicly embarrass you by publishing your information.
Misleading or False Statements – When attempting to collect a debt, the debt collector cannot misrepresent the balance owed or themselves. They are not allowed to tell you they are a police officer or represent a government agency. They may not imply your nonpayment will lead to an arrest.
Unfair or Unjust Practices – A debt collector is not allowed to disclose information to a 3rd party. They are not allowed to increase your balance except as allowed by law. They cannot make collect calls. They may not prematurely deposit a postdated check.
If you send a debt collector a written dispute of the debt within 30 days of their first contact, you may ask for and they then must provide:
- A fully itemized breakdown of the debt,
- A description of the product or services purchased,
- The debtor information including name, address, and last 4 numbers of their Social Security number,
- The original creditor’s full name and address, and
- Any and all supporting documentation for the debt.
Once you dispute the balance owed, a debt collector is not permitted to contact you until they validate the debt. Ensure you mail the dispute using certified, return receipt mail. Also, keep a written record of all communication including phone calls. The documentation is important if you ever go to court.
If you would like to talk more about debt collection abuse in Ohio, or need more information, please contact us.