If you live in Colorado, several laws protect you from abusive or overreaching debt collection tactics. One of those laws, the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Colorado FDCPA), applies to debt collectors and debt collection agencies and prohibits deceptive and abusive behavior. The other, the Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code, prohibits original creditors from engaging in abusive collection practices. These laws offer protections in addition to the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
This article explains the specific debt collection protections for people who live in Colorado and what you can do if a debt collector violates the law.
The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
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. (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.
Colorado’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Colorado has also enacted laws that protect consumers from abusive and deceptive debt collection tactics. Similar to the federal FDCPA statute, the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies only to debt collectors and collection agencies.
Which Debts and Collectors are Covered by the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?
The Colorado FDCPA generally covers only the collection of consumer debt. The debts do not need to be reduced to a legal judgment. Business or commercial debts are not covered by the Colorado FDCPA however.
The Colorado FDCPA applies to any collection agency, solicitor or debt collector. All collection agencies are required to possess a valid license under Colorado law.
Notably, creditors collecting on their own debts are not covered by the Colorado FDCPA. Instead, creditors collecting their own debts are instead covered under Colorado's Uniform Consumer Credit Code. In addition to creditors collecting on their own behalf, employees of the United States government are not subject to the Colorado FDCPA.
Consumer Protections Against Debt Collectors and Collection Agencies Under the Colorado FDCPA
The Colorado FDCPA protects consumers in many ways.
It regulates how a debt collector/collection agency can gain information to determine the location of the consumer.
It gives the consumer the right to have the debt validated. This means that when the consumer gets notice of the collection of the debt, he or she can dispute the debt in writing. The debt collector must then “verify” the debt by stating the amount of the debt and the creditor to whom the debt is owed. Until the debt has been verified, the debt collector or collection agency cannot collect upon the disputed debt.
The debt collector or collection agency must follow rules that regulate the time, place and manner in which the debt collector or collection agency may communicate with the debtor. In general, the debt collector/collection agency may not:
- contact the consumer before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- communicate with the consumer if the debt collector or collection agency knows the consumer is represented by an attorney
- contact the consumer at work if the consumer’s employer prohibits such communication, or
- communicate with unrelated third parties about the debt
The consumer has the right to cease communication with the debt collector/collection agency. If the consumer notifies in writing that he or she wishes to stop all communications, the debt collector must stop contacting the consumer.
Prohibited Debt Collection Activities Under the Colorado FDCPA
The Colorado FDCPA also works to prohibit and regulate overreaching debt collection practices. A debt collector cannot:
Harass, oppress, or abuse the consumer in collecting the debt. Examples of harassing, oppressing or abusive conduct include:
- using or threatening to use violence to harm a person, or his reputation or property
- using obscene or profane language
- publishing a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts
- repeatedly and continuously calling the consumer with the intent to annoy, abuse or harass the person, and
- failing to disclose the caller’s identity within the first sixty seconds after the other party is identified as the debtor.
Make false, deceptive or misleading representations. The Colorado FDCPA also prohibits false, deceptive or misleading representations in collecting the debt. Examples of false, deceptive or misleading representations include (but are not limited to):
- implying that the debt collector or collection agency is affiliated with the state or United States government
- making false representations about the amount or status of the debt
- falsely representing the legal repercussions or remedies for nonpayment of the debt
- representing that the consumer has committed a crime or disgraceful conduct, and
- falsely representing or implying that the debt collector or collection agency is employed by a credit reporting agency.
Engage in unfair practices. The Colorado FDCPA also prohibits the debt collector from using unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect a debt. Examples of unfair practices include (but are not limited to):
- collecting additional amounts beyond what is expressly authorized by the credit agreement
- depositing or threatening to deposit a postdated check prior to the stated date, and
- taking or threatening to dispossess or disable the property where there is no real legal right to do so.
Legal Remedies for Violating the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
If you feel that a debt collector or collection agency has violated the Colorado FDCPA, you have several options:
File a complaint with the Colorado Attorney General’s office. The Colorado Attorney General's Office is empowered to investigate complaints and may take disciplinary or legal action for violations of the Colorado FDCPA.
Bring a civil lawsuit. You can sue the debt collector or collection agency that intentionally violated the Colorado FDCPA. If you win, you can get
- actual damages, and
- additional damages (but these cannot be more than $1,000).
You cannot be awarded double damages by proving a violation of both the federal FDCPA and the Colorado FDCPA.
Keep in mind, that if you lose the lawsuit, the court may order you to pay the debt collector’s attorney fees and costs. (This is not the case with the federal FDCPA).
Laws Regulating Collection by Creditors
In addition to regulating debt collectors and collection agencies, Colorado also limits creditors from overreaching debt collection practices under the Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code. The Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code prohibits extortionate and unconscionable debt collection practices by creditors.
What Is Extortionate and Unconscionable Conduct?
The Colorado law sets forth some specific behaviors that constitute extortionate and unconscionable conduct. But other tactics not listed may qualify as extortionate and unconscionable as well. The law specifically prohibits:
- extending credit with the understanding that a delay in repayment will result in violence or harm against the consumer, the consumer’s reputation or property
- using or threatening to use force or violence against the consumer
- harassing the consumer by calling the consumer frequently or at unusual hours
- simulating legal process or appearing to be a governmental agency
- causing or threatening injury to the consumer’s reputation by threatening to disclose creditworthiness, and
- communicating with the consumer’s employer about the credit issue before a judgment has been reached.
Legal Remedies When a Creditor Violates the Law
If you feel that the creditor has violated the Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code, you have several remedies available.
File a complaint with the Colorado Attorney General’s office. The attorney general’s office is empowered to bring a civil action against the creditor to stop the creditor’s unconscionable debt collection practices.
Bring a lawsuit. If the court finds unconscionable conduct, you may be awarded actual damages as well as attorney fees. But if you bring a groundless claim (which you knew to be groundless), the court can award attorney fees to the prevailing creditor/defendant.
Also, if the court finds that the creditor engaged in extortionate conduct when the credit was originally extended, the creditor may not be able to enforce the debt against you in court.
The remedies under the Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code are in addition to remedies under other laws and you cannot be awarded a double recovery of actual damages.
Getting More Information
The full text of the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is located at Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 12-14-101 to 12-14-137. In addition, the sections of the Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code referenced in this article are located at Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 5-5-108 to 5-5-109. (To learn how to find state statutes, visit Nolo’s Legal Research Center.)