The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) limits where and when debt collectors can contact consumer debtors. In many cases, debt collectors that contact debtors at work are violating the FDCPA. Read on to learn what types of work collection calls are prohibited by the FDCPA. (Learn more about the provisions of the FDCPA.)
The FDCPA is a federal law that governs the activities and behaviors of debt colletors and debt collection agencies collecting consumer debts. For the most part, its restrictions do not apply to the collection of business debts, nor to creditors collecting their own debts. (Learn more about what types of collectors are subject to the FDCPA.)
The FDCPA limits how, when, and where bill collectors can contact debtors. Many of the rules apply to a debtor's workplace.
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from contacting debtors at inconvenient or unusual places. Some workplaces, by their nature, are inconvenient places for debtors to take collection calls. Examples might include schools (if the debtor is a teacher), hospitals, funeral homes, and restaurants.
If it's inconvenient for you to take calls at your job site, let the collector know.
Another section of the FDCPA expressly prohibits collectors for contacting debtors at work if the collector knows, or has reason to know, that the employer prohibits such communications. Many employers have policies that prohibit employees from taking or making nonemergency calls for personal business, which would preclude an employee from taking a collection call.
Because the law prohibits "communications," these restrictions apply to other forms of workplace communications, such as email, faxes, and texts.
For certain occupations, the collector should know that an employer will not allow collection calls. For example, a collector should have reason to know that an ambulance driver cannot take collection calls while on the job.
Other times, the collector has dealt with the same employer before and knows that the employer does not allow employees to conduct personal business during work hours.
Finally, you can always put the collector on notice of your employer's policies. If you call the collector, write down the date, time, and substance of the call. Or, send a letter and keep a copy for your records. (Learn more in What Can You Do If a Debt Collector Violates the FDCPA?)
Despite these restrictions, the debt collector can contact you at work if (1) you give your consent, or (2) there is a court order allowing such communications.
(To learn about other collection behavior that violates the FDCPA, see the articles in Nolo's Illegal Debt Collection Practices area.)