If a debt collector violates the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), it won’t eliminate the debt you owe. But the violation may:
- help you negotiate a settlement of your debt, or
- entitle you to money damages from the debt collector if you bring a separate lawsuit.
Violation of the FDCPA Doesn’t Eliminate Your Underlying Debt
When you incur a debt, you generally have a contractual obligation to pay it back. If you don’t pay back the debt, the creditor may use a debt collector to collect the debt from you. (Learn about the difference between a debt collector and a creditor.)
The FDCPA protects borrowers from debt collectors that use abusive or unfair collection practices. But it doesn’t affect your contractual obligations to the creditor. This means that an FDCPA violation won’t eliminate the debt you owe. But it can entitle you to other remedies.
What Are Your Options If a Debt Collector Violates the FDCPA?
If a debt collector violates your rights under the FDCPA, you can:
- sue the debt collector in court
- report the violation to a government agency or the attorney general, or
- use the violation as leverage if you want to settle the debt.
(Learn more about what you can do if a debt collector violates the FDCPA.)
Remedies for FDCPA Violations
While an FDCPA violation won’t get rid of the underlying debt you owe, it may entitle you to:
- monetary damages for physical or emotional distress or lost wages
- statutory damages of up to $1,000 (statutory damages are set by statute, and don't depend on the amount of harm to you)
- recover garnished wages in some cases
- reasonable attorney fees, and
- injunctive relief (meaning that the court may order the debt collector to stop certain collection activities).
(Learn more about FDCPA violation remedies.)
FDCPA Violations May Help You Settle Your Debt
Because defending an FDCPA lawsuit can be costly and subject the debt collector to possible damages, an FDCPA violation can provide you with leverage if you want to settle your debt. The debt collector may agree to settle the debt on terms favorable to you in exchange for your agreement not to pursue the FDCPA violation in court. In general, the stronger your case, the more leverage you will have in your settlement negotiations.