Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act

Florida debt collection laws prohibit debt collectors and creditors from using deceptive and abusive tactics when collecting debts.

By , Attorney (Case Western Reserve University School of Law)
Updated by Amy Loftsgordon, Attorney (University of Denver Sturm College of Law)

In Florida, both the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) (15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 and following) and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) regulate debt collectors.

The FDCPA applies to every state and protects consumers from unfair and deceptive debt collection practices. The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from contacting you at certain times and places. Likewise, Florida's debt collection laws protect those whose debts are in collection.

What Are Florida's Fair Debt Collection Laws?

You can find the FCCPA in the Florida statutes at §§ 559.55 to 559.785.

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

The federal FDCPA limits 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 FCCPA supplements the federal FDCPA and might provide you with even greater protection if you live in Florida.

Who Is Regulated by Florida's Debt Collection Laws?

The FCCPA prohibits both debt collectors and creditors from using certain types of abusive, deceptive, and misleading debt collection tactics. (Fla. Stat. § 559.55). The FDCPA, on the other hand, usually applies to collectors and some debt buyers, but not an original creditor unless it's using a different name that implies a third party is attempting to collect the debt. (15 U.S.C. § 1692a).

Does Florida Require Debt Collectors to Be Licensed?

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:

  • original creditors
  • attorneys
  • banks and other financial institutions, and
  • real estate and insurance professionals. (Fla. Stat. § 559.553).

What Are the Penalties for Failing to Register Under Florida's Fair Debt Collection Laws?

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. § 559.565).

What Are the Prohibited Debt Collection Practices Under Florida Law?

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 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
  • 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. § 559.72).

What Are Your Rights If a Debt Collector Is Harassing You?

If you think a debt collector is harassing you in violation of Florida law, you complain to the state Attorney General's office. Although the Attorney General won't intervene on your behalf, it uses complaints to learn about misconduct.

You can also file a lawsuit against the collector.

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

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.

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

If you win, the court may award to you:

  • actual damages
  • statutory damages not to exceed $1,000
  • punitive damages (at the judge's discretion), and
  • attorneys' fees and court costs. (Fla. Stat. § 559.77).

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

You can file a complaint with Florida's Office of Financial Regulation and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). 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

If you need help dealing with an aggressive debt collector, figuring out what option is best for handling your debts, negotiating a settlement, or responding to a lawsuit for nonpayment of a debt, consider consulting with a debt relief lawyer.

If you have a lot of debts, you might want to consider filing for bankruptcy. In that situation, you'll want to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer.

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