The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (CCPA) prohibits both debt collectors and creditors from using certain types of abusive, deceptive, and misleading debt collection tactics. The CCPA supplements the protections provided by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Read on to learn what Florida's consumer laws prohibit, who is covered by the laws, and what you can do if your rights are violated under these laws.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that sets limits on what bill collectors can do in attempting to get you to pay a debt. The FDCPA prevents debt collectors from talking to third parties about your debt, calling you at work, and engaging in other tactics designed to harass, abuse, or mislead you into paying a debt. (Learn the Top Five Debt Collector Phone Tactics.)
The FDCPA applies to debt collectors and certain third party debt buyers—it does not cover collection activities performed by an original creditor. (To read more about the federal law that protects debtors from abusive collection tactics, see Illegal Debt Collection Practices.)
Florida has enacted additional laws that supplement the FDCPA, and might provide you with even greater protection than the FDCPA if you live in that state. Florida's Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) protects you from abusive debt collection practices. Like the FDCPA, the Florida CCPA covers debt collectors. However, unlike the FDCPA, it also covers original creditors.
The FCCPA prohibits creditors and debt collectors from engaging in abusive, harassing, unfair, fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading practices. Some things that creditors and debt collectors cannot do under the FCCPA include:
pretending to be a police officer and acting on behalf of a government agency
using or threatening to use force or violence
communicating , or threatening to communicate, with your employer about the debt, unless they have taken a judgment against you
if you have disputed the debt, reporting, or threatening to report, derogatory information about a disputed debt to a credit reporting agency without also disclosing the existence of your dispute
contacting third parties about your debt
harassing you or your family about the debt
contact you between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. without your permission
holding themselves out as attorneys, or misrepresenting to you that an attorney is involved (this is also a potential violation of the FDCPA)
sending you communications, such as forms and "summons" designed to look like attorney letters or government documents
using obscene, profane, vulgar, or abusive language when communicating with you or your family
threatening or attempting to enforce an illegitimate debt against you, such as a debt that has expired under the statute of limitations
mailing you documents that contain embarrassing words or phrases on a postcard or envelope, and
communicating directly with you when they know you are represented by an attorney.
You have a private cause of action if a creditor or debt collector harms you in violation of the FCCPA. This means that you can file a lawsuit in Florida against the collector or creditor. If you win, the court may award to you:
possible punitive damages (at the judge's discretion), and
You can also file a complaint with Florida's Office of Financial Regulation.
If a debt collector (but not a creditor) uses abusive or deceptive collection behavior, you might also be able to sue under the federal FDCPA.
The FCCPA requires all debt collectors, including those located out-of-state, to be registered with the State of Florida. Only debt collectors are required to register. Those who are exempt from registration include:
banks and other financial institutions, and
real estate and insurance professionals.
An unregistered debt collector might be subject to administration fines of up to $10,000, plus attorneys' fees and cost. However, you do not have the right to sue a collection agency for failing to register. Only Florida's Office of Financial Regulation of the Financial Services Commission has the authority to assess fines and enforce the registration requirements. The Florida's attorney general can then file a lawsuit against that debt collector.
If you have questions about the law, or want to file a suit against a collector who you think is violating the law, talk to a debt settlement or consumer protection lawyer.