Colorado Fair Debt Collection Laws

Colorado debt collection laws prohibit abusive and unconscionable tactics.

Updated by , Attorney (University of Denver Sturm College of Law)

The Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Colorado FDCPA) protects consumers from abusive and overreaching debt collection tactics. This law, along with the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, prohibits debt collectors from engaging in deceptive behavior and provides protections to Colorado consumers who have debt in collection.

What Are Colorado's Fair Debt Collection Laws?

You can find the Colorado FDCPA in the Colorado Revised Statutes at Colo. Rev. Stat. § 5-16-101 and following.

How Do Colorado's Fair Debt Collection Laws Compare to the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Federal FDCPA)?

Both the federal FDCPA and Colorado FDCPA regulate debt collectors in Colorado.

Federal FDCPA

The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (federal FDCPA) (15 U.S.C. § 1692 and following) protects consumers who owe money to merchants, credit card companies, or others for household debts. It prevents debt collectors and certain other parties from using intrusive or deceptive practices when collecting debts. For example, under the FDCPA, a debt collector can't:

  • call you at unusual or inconvenient times or places, like early in the morning or late at night
  • falsely represent the character, amount, or legal status of a debt
  • use language or symbols on envelopes or postcards that indicate the debt collector is in the debt collection business or that the communication relates to the collection of a debt
  • call you at work if the collector knows or should know that your employer prohibits such calls, or
  • uses obscene or profane language, like racial slurs, insulting remarks, or threats of violence against you.

The federal FDCPA also gives consumers the right to validate a debt.

Colorado FDCPA

The Colorado FDCPA also protects consumers from abusive and deceptive debt collection tactics. Like the federal FDCPA, this law provides consumers with specific rights and restricts the practices that debt collectors and collection agencies may use to attempt to collect debts. Also like the federal FDCPA, Colorado law regulates how a debt collector or collection agency can gain information to determine the consumer's location.

In addition, similar to the federal FDCPA's debt validation rules, the Colorado FDCPA also gives the consumer the right to validate the debt. So, when the consumer gets notice of the collection of the debt, the consumer can dispute the debt in writing. The debt collector must then verify the debt by stating the amount of the debt and the creditor to whom the debt is owed. The debt must be verified before the debt collector or collection agency can collect upon the disputed debt.

Who Is Regulated by Colorado's Fair Debt Collection Laws?

The Colorado FDCPA applies to debt collectors and collection agencies. However, the law doesn't apply to certain parties including creditors collecting their own debts or employees of the United States government.

But some creditors collecting their own debts are covered under the Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code.

The Colorado FDCPA Covers Consumer Debts

The Colorado FDCPA generally covers only the collection of consumer debt. The debt doesn't need to be reduced to a legal judgment.

The law doesn't cover debts for business, investment, commercial, or agricultural purposes or a debt incurred by a business.

Collection Agencies, Solicitors, and Debt Collectors

The Colorado FDCPA applies to any collection agency, solicitor, or debt collector. "Solicitor" means any person employed or engaged by a collection agency who solicits or attempts to solicit debts for collection by the person or any other person.

Do You Have to Be Licensed to Collect Debt in Colorado?

All collection agencies are required to possess a valid license under Colorado law. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 5-16-115, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 5-16-118).

What Are the Prohibited Debt Collection Practices Under Colorado Law?

Also similar to the federal FDCPA, a debt collector or collection agency must follow rules that regulate the time, place, and manner in which the debt collector or collection agency may communicate with the debtor. In general, a debt collector or collection agency may not, among other things:

  • contact the consumer before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • communicate with the consumer if the debt collector or collection agency knows the consumer is represented by an attorney (unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to a communication from the debt collector or collection agency or unless the attorney consents to direct communication with the consumer), or
  • contact the consumer at work if the debt collector or collection agency knows or has reason to know that the consumer's employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 5-16-105).

The consumer has the right to cease communication with the debt collector or collection agency. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 5-16-105). If the consumer notifies the collector in writing to stop all communications, the debt collector must stop contacting the consumer.

The federal FDCPA also gives you the right to tell a debt collector to stop contacting you. But it's not always a good idea to take this step.

Debt Collectors Can't Harass, Oppress, or Abuse Consumers When Collecting Debts

Examples of prohibited harassing, oppressing, or abusive conduct under the Colorado FDCPA include:

  • using or threatening to use violence to harm a person or threatening to harm the person's reputation or property
  • using obscene or profane language
  • publishing a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts
  • repeatedly and continuously calling the consumer with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass the person, and
  • failing to disclose the caller's identity within the first sixty seconds after the other party is identified as the debtor. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 5-16-106).

Debt Collectors Can't Make False, Deceptive, or Misleading Representations

The Colorado FDCPA also prohibits false, deceptive, or misleading representations in collecting the debt. Examples of false, deceptive, or misleading representations include, but are not limited to:

  • implying that the debt collector or collection agency is affiliated with the state or United States government
  • making false representations about the amount or status of the debt
  • falsely representing the legal repercussions or remedies for nonpayment of the debt
  • representing that the consumer has committed a crime or disgraceful conduct, and
  • falsely representing or implying that the debt collector or collection agency is employed by a credit reporting agency. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 5-16-107).

Debt Collectors Can't Engage in Unfair Practices

The Colorado FDCPA also prohibits the debt collector from using unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect a debt. Examples of unfair practices include, but aren't limited to:

  • collecting additional amounts beyond what the credit agreement expressly authorizes
  • depositing or threatening to deposit a postdated check before the stated date, and
  • taking or threatening to dispossess or disable property where there is no real legal right to do so. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 5-16-108).

What Are Your Rights Under Colorado's Fair Debt Collection Laws?

If a debt collector violates the Colorado FDCPA, you may file a civil lawsuit against the collector.

Also, you can sue a collector for violating the federal FDCPA. You might be able to recover monetary damages, attorneys' fees, and more. (15 U.S. Code § 1692k).

What Are the Penalties for Violating Colorado's Fair Debt Collection Laws?

If you win a lawsuit against a debt collector for violating the Colorado FDCPA, you can get actual damages and additional damages (but these damages can't be more than $1,000). (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 5-16-113).

In determining the amount of the collector or agency's liability, the court will consider, among other things, the frequency and persistence of noncompliance, the nature of noncompliance, and the extent to which noncompliance was intentional. You can't, however, get double damages by proving a violation of both the federal FDCPA and the Colorado FDCPA.

Keep in mind that if you lose the lawsuit, the court might order you to pay the debt collector's attorneys' fees and costs.

How Do You Enforce Colorado's Fair Debt Collection Laws?

If you think a debt collector has violated Colorado law, you can file a complaint with the state of Colorado.

File a Complaint With the Colorado Department of Law, Consumer Protection Section

If you believe a debt collector has violated Colorado law, you can file a complaint with the Colorado Department of Law, Consumer Protection Section.

File a Complaint With the Colorado Attorney General's Office

You can also file a complaint with the Colorado Office of the Attorney General. The Colorado Attorney General's Office is empowered to investigate complaints and may take disciplinary or legal action for violations of the Colorado FDCPA.

How Can You Get Help With Colorado's Fair Debt Collection Laws?

In addition, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) about an issue with a debt collector. After you submit a complaint, the CFPB will work to get you a response from the collector, typically within 15 days.

What Are Your Rights If You're Being Sued by a Debt Collector?

If a debt collector sues you, you have the right to respond in court. You also have the right to hire an attorney to represent you in the case.

Even though you're being sued, you can still try to settle the debt. If the collector violated federal or state laws when trying to collect from you, you could have leverage in debt settlement negotiations.

Read More Articles

Learn what to do if a bill collector uses abusive tactics.

Read about what you should and shouldn't do when a debt collector calls.

Get tips on how to tell the difference between a debt collector and a scammer.

Talk to a Lawyer

Even if a collector violates the federal or Colorado FDCPA, the debt doesn't disappear. The creditor might still take legal action against you, like filing a lawsuit to collect the debt.

If you think a debt collector or collection agency has violated the federal or Colorado FDCPA (particularly if a collections lawsuit has been filed against you), consider talking to an attorney to get advice about your options.

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