Fair debt collection laws in Georgia protect consumers from abusive or overreaching debt collection tactics. The Georgia Installment Loan Act regulates collection practices for certain smaller installment loans. This law ensures that lenders making these kinds of loans comply with specific lending standards and that consumer interests are protected in the process.
With an installment loan, you borrow a set amount of money and repay the loan over a fixed period. Each payment is called an "installment," so this kind of loan is called an "installment loan." For example, a high-interest personal loan is generally an installment loan.
Some states, including Georgia, have special statutes for installment loans to prevent predatory lending. The Georgia Installment Loan Act applies to installment loans that are $3,000 or less, including the renewal or refinancing of any such loan, with a loan length of 36 months and 15 days or less. (Ga. Code § 7-3-3, § 7-3-11).
Again, the law applies to companies that make or service installment loans of $3,000 or less with a loan length of 36 months and 15 days or less, and their employees and agents (non-employees), such as debt collectors. (Ga. Code § 7-3-3, Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. R. 80-14-5-.05).
However, the law doesn't apply to certain regulated financial services providers, such as banks, trust companies, savings and loan associations, savings banks, credit unions, pawnbrokers, and educational institutions that make student loans. (Ga. Code § 7-3-4).
The Georgia Installment Loan Act's requirements protect consumers in a few different ways.
The creditor must follow proper procedures when extending the debt and may not resort to abusive debt collection practices. (Ga. Code § 7-3-33).
The Georgia Installment Loan Act prohibits the willful use of unreasonable collection tactics. Unreasonable collection tactics include, but aren't limited to, any conduct that:
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) (15 U.S.C. § 1692 and following) protects consumers from abusive debt collectors. Georgia law requires each non-employee debt collector that a licensed installment loan lender uses to comply with the requirements of the federal FDCPA. (Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. R. 80-14-5-.05).
Again, finance companies and loan companies that make consumer loans of $3,000 or less and meet certain conditions must comply with the Georgia Installment Loan Act. Entities that make such loans are required to be licensed by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance. (Ga. Code § 7-3-4).
To verify that an installment lender is authorized to operate in Georgia, go to the NMLS Consumer Access website, a free service for consumers to confirm that the financial services company or professional with whom they wish to conduct business is authorized in the state.
If you think you're dealing with an entity offering installment loans in Georgia that isn't listed as a licensed entity through NMLS Consumer Access, report the entity to [email protected].
If you think that a lender, debt collector, or collection agency has violated the Georgia Installment Loan Act, you can report the issue to the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance by sending a detailed email and supporting documentation to [email protected]. The Department isn't authorized to resolve disputes between consumers and installment lenders but might use information in its regulatory process.
The Georgia Department of Banking and Finance can investigate complaints and may take disciplinary or legal action against a company or person for violations of the Georgia Installment Loan Act. For instance, the Department may suspend or revoke the lender's business license for unreasonable collection tactics. The Department may also issue a cease and desist order for unauthorized activities. (Ga. Code § 7-3-40, § 7-3-45).
For more information about the Georgia Installment Loan Act and the Department of Banking and Finance's relationship to this law, visit the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance's Installment Loan page.
You can also file a lawsuit against an installment lender that violates the Georgia Installment Loan Act. If you win a lawsuit, you can get twice the amount of the interest and loan fees you paid but no less than $100. (Ga. Code § 7-3-50).
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).
If you need help filing a lawsuit, talk to a debt relief lawyer.
A lender may be found criminally liable for violating the Georgia Installment Loan Act. If the lender knowingly and willfully violated the law with an intent to defraud the borrower, the court may find the lender guilty of a misdemeanor and declare the loan null and void. (Ga. Code § 7-3-50).
Also, any person, including the executive officers, directors, trustees, owners, agents, and employees of such person, that willfully makes installment loans without a license or an exemption is guilty of a felony. (Ga. Code § 7-3-50).
If you have had an issue with a licensed installment lender or debt collector in Georgia, you should first reach out to the company to resolve the matter. But if you aren't able to resolve the issue directly, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). After you submit a complaint, the CFPB will work to get you a response, typically within 15 days.
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.
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.
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.