Can a debt collector call me late at night?

In most cases, if a debt collector calls you after 9:00 p.m., the collector is in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Question

A debt collector keeps calling me very late at night, usually after 10:00 p.m. Sometimes the collector calls several times in one night. Is that legal? I have to get up early for work, and I’m normally asleep when they call.

Answer

Most likely, no. A federal law, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), limits the time of day and different ways that a debt collector can communicate with you.

No Calls Early in the Morning or Late at Night

Under the FDCPA, a debt collector isn’t allowed to contact you at any “unusual time” or at a time that it knows, or should know, is inconvenient for you. Unless you tell the collector otherwise, the FDCPA says that a collector should assume that it’s inconvenient to call you before 8:00 in the morning or after 9:00 at night, local time.

Collectors Can’t Make Harassing Calls

The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from harassing you. If a debt collector contacts you over and over, multiple times each day—or calls you intending to annoy, abuse, or harass you—then the collector is most likely violating the FDCPA.

Ceasing Communication

Under the FDCPA, if you don’t want a debt collector to contact you, you can stop all communications by sending a written request, commonly called a "cease and desist letter," to the collector.

If you send a cease and desist letter to a debt collector, that collector has to stop contacting you except to tell you that:

  • it’s ending communications, or
  • it might (or will) sue you or use another legal remedy to collect the debt.

Be aware that it’s not always a good idea to tell a debt collector to stop contacting you.

FDCPA Applies to Debt Collectors, Not Creditors

Keep in mind that the FDCPA applies to debt collectors, but usually not to creditors collecting debts they originated. The law does apply to a creditor that collects its own debts under a different name. The term "debt collector" includes someone who regularly collects debts for others, or whose main business is collecting debts.

Some debt buyers that purchase, and therefore own, the debt they’re trying to collect aren’t subject to the FDCPA. (See Henson et al. v. Santander Consumer USA Inc., 137 S.Ct. 1718 (2017)). But the FDCPA applies to a debt buyer if the business's principal purpose is the collection of debts. (See Tepper v. Amos Financial, LLC, 898 F.3d 364 (3rd Cir. 2018), 12 C.F.R. § 1006.2(i), effective November 30, 2021, see official interpretation).

Other Consumer Protection Laws Might Apply

Besides the FDCPA, various states have enacted consumer protection laws that regulate debt collection practices, which could cover creditors and debt buyers.

Also, if a creditor calls you late at night, the call might be considered an “unfair or deceptive act or practice” under the Fair Trade Commission Act (FTCA).

Getting Help

If you’re receiving harassing calls from a debt collector, creditor, or debt buyer, consider talking to an attorney to find out what you should do in your particular circumstances.

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