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 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:
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.
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.)