Arizona Fair Debt Collection Laws
In Arizona, a criminal statute makes it illegal for debt collectors to use deceptive or unfair collection practices.
Arizona law prohibits debt collectors from engaging in a range of deceptive and intrusive tactics when collecting money on behalf of a creditor. Arizona also requires collection agencies to be licensed. The Arizona law is similar to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a federal law that protects people who owe money for consumer debts from abusive collection practices. However, because the Arizona law is a criminal statute, unlike the FDCPA, it does not allow individuals to sue collection agencies for violating the law.
The FDCPA protects consumers who owe money to merchants, credit card companies, or others for household debts. It prevents debt collection agencies from using intrusive or deceptive practices when collecting debts. If a bill collector violates the FDCPA, the debtor can bring a lawsuit seeking damages. (To learn more about the FDCPA, visit our Illegal Debt Collection Practices topic area.)
Keep in mind, however, that the FDCPA does not erase the debt, nor does it restrict the creditor’s options for taking legal action.
Arizona Prohibits Collection Agencies from Engaging In Abusive Practices to Collect Debts
Arizona law defines “collection agency” as anyone who is “engaged” in collecting alleged or actual debts, including anyone who owns a business but collects payments from customers under a different name.
Arizona law also requires that collection agencies be licensed and provide a bond. All employees of a collection agency must “deal openly, fairly and honestly” in conducting their business. Licensees may therefore not “engage in any unfair or misleading practices.” In addition, the law forbids “oppressive, vindictive or illegal” collection methods.
Under this umbrella, Arizona law prohibits these specific practices:
- sending any written communication that imitates any form of judicial process from a court, government entity, or lawyer
- representing that the debt collector practices law or maintains a legal department unless the collector is, in fact, also licensed to practice law
- attempting to collect any collection fee, attorney's fee, court cos,t or expenses that the debtor is not legally obligated to pay
- misrepresenting the amount of the existing debt or falsely stating that if the debt is not paid, the debtor will incur additional attorney fees, investigation fees, service fees, or any other additional charge, or
- giving the impression that the debt collector represents the State of Arizona or that the state government or any state agency has endorsed its activities.
Enforcement of the Law
Violation of the Arizona debt collection statute is a class 1 misdemeanor. Because this is a criminal statute, any debtor who has been victimized by a collection agency can report a violation of the statute to the local city or county prosecutor. The debtor cannot directly sue the debt collector for breaking the law. However, because the FDCPA applies in Arizona, the debtor may still sue for money damages under the federal statute.
Getting More Information
You can find the full text of the Arizona criminal statute at Ariz. Code §§ 32-1001 to 32-1057. (To learn how to find state statutes, visit Nolo’s Legal Research Center.)