In Illinois, both the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Illinois Collection Agency Act (ICAA) 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 ICAA protects those whose debts are in collection. The law requires debt collectors to be licensed and regulates what collectors are allowed to do when attempting to collect debts. For instance, much like under the federal FDCPA, the ICAA prohibits collectors from using profane, obscene, or abusive language or trying to trick you into paying a debt. Also, similar to the FDCPA's debt validation requirement, the ICAA gives you the right to request that a debt collector validate (check the legitimacy) a debt and details what they have to do if you challenge the validity of a debt.
Ultimately, the ICAA supplements the laws governing debt collectors under the federal FDCPA. But not every company or person who tries to collect a debt from an Illinois resident has to comply with the ICAA.
The ICAA applies to companies in the business of collecting debts. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/2). (This article usually uses the term "debt collectors," but the ICAA generally calls debt collectors "collection agencies" or "licensees" because they have to get a license).
If a business is "confined" to something other than running a collection agency, it doesn't have to comply with the ICAA. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/03). Also, some companies and professionals are exempt from complying with the ICAA, such as:
The ICAA also doesn't cover original creditors. The original creditor is the company that gave you the loan or credit. Debt buyers, on the other hand, are generally subject to the law. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/8.5).
The ICAA contains specific rules exempting debt collectors from many of the law's requirements when attempting to collect child support debts. For example, collectors aren't limited in how often they can contact you, aren't prohibited from contacting your employer, and aren't barred from publishing your name in a list of people who owe similar debts. Though, if you think a child support collector has violated the law when contacting or communicating with you, discuss the matter with an Illinois debt collection lawyer. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/2.04).
Debt collectors with offices in Illinois must get a license. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/4). If a debt collector fails to get a license, the state can impose a fine of up to $10,000 for each violation. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/4.5).
If a debt collector is located out of state and tries to contact you via phone, mail, or electronic communication, it doesn't need an Illinois license if it has a license in the state from which it is contacting you. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/4).
The ICAA limits the methods that debt collectors can use to collect debts and how they communicate with you or third parties. It also gives you specific rights if you want to challenge the validity of a debt.
Among other things, debt collectors are prohibited from doing any of the following under the ICAA.
The ICAA requires debt collectors to comply with the following rules.
Disclosures at the time of first contact. Within five days of its first contact with you, the debt collector must give you the following information in a written notice:
No harassment by frequent contacts. The ICAA doesn't set a limit on the number of contacts that constitute harassment. But the ICAA does say that if the debt collector contacts you or a member of your family at an inconvenient time or place, then it's a harassing contact (except that it can assume that 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. is convenient). If the debt collector knows that your employer doesn't allow you to receive personal calls, then it may not contact you at work. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/9.2).
Protect your privacy in communication with others. A debt collector is allowed to contact a third party to acquire location information about you. But it can't reveal its employer to the third party (unless the party expressly asks for that information). A collector can't tell another person that you owe a debt, nor can it communicate with someone more than once unless by request or unless the collection agency reasonably believes that the earlier response was erroneous or incomplete and that the person now has correct or complete location information. When a collector mails you information, it can't use a postcard or use any markings on an envelope to indicate that it is a debt collector or that it is in the debt collection business. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/9.1).
If you are represented by an attorney, the collector may only communicate with your attorney. The only exception to this is if your attorney fails to communicate with the collector for at least 30 days. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/9.1).
Stop contact upon request. If you notify the debt collector in writing that you refuse to pay the debt or that you want it to stop contacting you, then the collector must cease all communication with you. It might be able to pursue its debt collection by suing you, however, and it can send you one last notification informing you what it will do. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/9.2).
The ICAA gives you two methods to challenge or validate a debt before the debt collector can continue collection efforts.
If you think you don't owe the debt or owe a lesser amount. Again, as noted earlier, the debt collector must give you notice of the debt amount and your right to dispute the debt. You then have 30 days to dispute the amount of the debt or to dispute that you owe anything. The debt collector must then stop any collection efforts until it verifies with the original creditor that you actually owe the debt. It must mail you a written verification. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/9.3).
If you're a victim of identity theft. Debt collectors must stop collection efforts after you give them proper notice that you were a victim of identity theft. You'll have to provide the debt collector with a police report, a completed Federal Trade Commission Affidavit of Identity Theft (available at www.ftc.gov), an Illinois Attorney General ID Theft Affidavit (available at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov), or a written statement that certifies that the representations therein are true, correct, and contain no material omissions of fact. If you write your own statement, you'll also need to include the following:
The debt collector is required to review the information you give it and make a good faith determination that you're still liable for the debt before it can resume collection efforts. It must give you a written explanation of the basis for its decision. (225 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 425/9.4).
If you think a debt collector violated the ICAA, you can do the following.
If you think a debt collector has violated the ICAA, contact the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. You can file a complaint online as well as check the license status of a debt collector.
You can also file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov.
You can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) about a collector. After you submit a complaint, the CFPB will work to get you a response from the collector, typically within 15 days. Also, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the FDCPA. You can contact the FTC online at FTC Complaint Assistant.
Even though the ICAA doesn't explicitly allow you to sue the debt collector directly, some courts in Illinois have ruled that people have the right to sue a debt collector. You might be able to recover actual damages and possibly punitive damages. 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.