If you live in Colorado, several laws protect you from abusive or overreaching debt collection tactics. One of those laws—the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act—applies to debt collectors and debt collection agencies. This law prohibits deceptive and abusive behavior, and provides protections along with the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Read on to learn about specific debt collection protections for people who live in Colorado and what you can do if a debt collector violates the law.
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (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:
If a collector violates the FDCPA, you might be able to sue and recover money and other damages.
Keep in mind, though, that even if a collector violates the FDCPA, the debt doesn't disappear and the creditor might still take legal action against you, like filing a lawsuit to collect the debt.
Colorado has also enacted various laws that protect consumers from abusive and deceptive debt collection tactics. One of these laws, the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Colorado FDCPA) (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 5-16-101 and following), applies to debt collectors and collection agencies. The law does not, however, apply to certain parties including creditors collecting their own debts or employees of the United States government. Some creditors collecting their own debts are, however, covered under Colorado's Uniform Consumer Credit Code.
The law provides consumers with specific rights and restricts the practices that debt collectors and collection agencies may use to attempt to collect debts.
The Colorado FDCPA generally covers only the collection of consumer debt. The debt doesn't need to be reduced to a legal judgment. But the law doesn't cover debts for business, investment, commercial, or agricultural purposes or a debt incurred by a business.
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. Also, all collection agencies are required to possess a valid license under Colorado law.
The Colorado FDCPA protects consumers in many ways. Similar to the federal FDCPA, Colorado law regulates how a debt collector or collection agency can gain information to determine the location of the consumer. The law also gives the consumer the right to have the debt validated. This means that when the consumer gets notice of the collection of the debt, he or she 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. Until the debt has been verified, the debt collector or collection agency can't collect upon the disputed debt.
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:
The consumer has the right to cease communication with the debt collector or collection agency. If the consumer notifies the collector in writing to stop all communications, the debt collector must stop contacting the consumer. This part of the law, too, is similar to the federal FDCPA. Under the federal FDCPA, you can tell a debt collector to stop contacting you, but it's not always a good idea to take this step.
The Colorado FDCPA also prohibits and regulates overreaching debt collection practices.
A debt collector can't harass, oppress, or abuse the consumer in collecting the debt. Examples of harassing, oppressing, or abusive conduct include:
A debt collector 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:
A debt collector 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 are not limited to:
If you think that a debt collector or collection agency has violated the Colorado FDCPA, you have several options:
File a complaint with the Colorado Attorney General's office. The Colorado Attorney General's Office is empowered to investigate complaints and may take disciplinary or legal action for violations of the Colorado FDCPA.
Bring a civil lawsuit. If you win, you can get:
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.
If you think a debt collector or collection agency has violated the Colorado FDCPA or federal FDCPA when trying to collect a debt from you—particularly if a collections lawsuit has been filed against you—consider talking to an attorney to get advice about your options.