Arizona Fair Debt Collection Laws

In Arizona, a criminal statute makes it illegal for debt collectors to use deceptive or unfair collection practices.

In Arizona, both the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and state law regulate debt collectors. The FDCPA applies to every state, and it protects consumers from unfair and deceptive debt collection practices. The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from contacting you at certain times and places. Likewise, 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.

While the Arizona law is similar to the FDCPA, the Arizona law is a criminal statute, unlike the FDCPA, so it doesn't allow individuals to sue collection agencies for violating the law.

Who Is Considered a "Debt Collector" Under Arizona Law?

Arizona law defines a "collection agency" as someone who is "engaged" in collecting debts, including anyone who collects debts occurring in the operation of the person's own business but collects payments from customers under a different name. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 32-1001). Some parties are exempt from certain parts of the law, like attorneys, banks, real estate brokers, and title companies. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 32-1004).

Debt Collectors Must Get a License

Arizona law also requires that collection agencies be licensed and provide a bond. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 32-1021, § 32-1055). And collection agencies must "deal openly, fairly, and honestly" in conducting their business. Licensees may not "engage in any unfair or misleading practices." In addition, the law forbids "oppressive, vindictive, or illegal" collection methods. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 32-1051).

Prohibited Debt Collection Practices in Arizona

Arizona law prohibits the following specific practices, among other things.

  • 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, attorneys' fee, court costs, or expenses that the debtor is not legally obligated to pay.
  • Threatening to sell the obligation of the debtor to any person, firm, or group.
  • Misrepresenting the amount of the existing debt.
  • Falsely stating that if the debt is not paid, the debtor will incur additional attorneys' fees, investigation fees, service fees, or any other additional charge.
  • Giving the impression that the debt collector represents the State of Arizona, the state government, or any state agency or that any of these entities has endorsed its activities. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 32-1051).

Enforcement of Arizona's Debt Collection Law

Violation of the Arizona debt collection statute is a class 1 misdemeanor. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 32-1056). So, any debtor who's been victimized by a collection agency can report a violation of the statute to the local city or county prosecutor. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 32-1057).

But you can't directly sue a debt collector for breaking the law. Keep in mind, though, that because the federal FDCPA applies in Arizona, you may still sue for money damages under that federal statute (see below).

Filing a Complaint With the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

You can also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) if you have an issue with an Arizona debt collector. After you submit a complaint, the CFPB will work to get you a response, typically within 15 days.

Filing a Lawsuit for Federal FDCPA Violations

If a debt collector uses abusive or deceptive collection behavior, you might also be able to file a lawsuit under the federal FDCPA. Be aware, though, that FDCPA violations don't eliminate the debt, nor do they restrict the creditor's options for taking legal action.

If you need help initiating a lawsuit, talk to a debt relief lawyer.

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