In Florida, both the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) regulate debt collectors. The FDCPA applies to every state, and it protects consumers from unfair and deceptive debt collection practices. The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from contacting you at certain times and places. Likewise, the FCCPA protects those whose debts are in collection.
In fact, the FCCPA prohibits both debt collectors and creditors (the FDCPA applies to collectors and some debt buyers) from using certain types of abusive, deceptive, and misleading debt collection tactics. The FCCPA supplements the protections that the FDCPA provides.
Debtor Protection Under the Federal FDCPA
The federal FDCPA sets limits on what debt collectors can and can't do when attempting to get you to pay a debt. For example, the FDCPA prevents debt collectors from talking to third parties about your debt (subject to some exceptions), calling you at work when you tell them not to do so, and engaging in other tactics designed to harass, abuse, or mislead you into paying a debt.
The FDCPA applies to debt collectors and some third-party debt buyers, but it usually doesn't cover collection activities that an original creditor performs.
Florida's Laws Governing Debt Collection
The FCCPA supplements the federal FDCPA and might provide you with even greater protection if you live in Florida. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 559.52). Like the FDCPA, the FCCPA covers debt collectors. But unlike the FDCPA, it also covers original creditors.
Prohibited Collection Practices in Florida
The FCCPA prohibits creditors and debt collectors from engaging in abusive, harassing, unfair, fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading practices. Some actions that creditors and debt collectors can't 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
disclosing to a third party (other than your family) information affecting your reputation, whether or not for creditworthiness, with knowledge or reason to know that the other person doesn't have a legitimate business need for the information or that the information is false.
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
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
mailing you documents that contain embarrassing words or phrases on a postcard or envelope, and
communicating directly with you when they know you're represented by an attorney. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 559.72).
If A Debt Collector or Creditor Violates the FCCPA
You have a private cause of action if a creditor or debt collector harms you in violation of the FCCPA. So, you can file a lawsuit in Florida against the collector or creditor. If you win, the court may award to you:
statutory damages not to exceed $1,000
possible punitive damages (at the judge's discretion), and
attorneys' fees and court costs. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 559.77).
The FCCPA requires all debt collectors, including those located out-of-state, to be registered with the state of Florida. Those who are exempt from registration include, among others:
banks and other financial institutions, and
real estate and insurance professionals. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 559.553).
Remedies for Failing To Register
An unregistered debt collector might be subject to fines of up to $10,000, plus attorneys' fees and costs. But you don't 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. Florida's attorney general can then file a lawsuit against that debt collector. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 559.565).
Talk to a Lawyer
If you have questions about federal or state debt collection laws or want to file a suit against a collector, talk to a debt relief lawyer or consumer protection lawyer.