Collection agencies and even creditors may harass debtors in the effort to get debts paid in spite of the rights afforded to debtors under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This conduct, particularly when it comes from multiple agencies in relation to heavy debt, can be very stressful for a debtor. Many people choose to file for bankruptcy. If the collections abuse in the debt collections process persists, a knowledgeable Alabama attorney at Grainger Legal Services can advise you on possible avenues of relief from the abuse.
Unlike some other states, Alabama does not have significant consumer protections against collections abuse. However, there are certain laws that may be applicable, such as an anti-harassment criminal law prohibiting the use of telephones to communicate obscene or lewd words. There is also an Alabama Deceptive Trade Practices Act that permits creditors and debt collectors to be taken to court for treble damages. Unlike the FDCPA, it applies both to collection agencies and creditors.
What counts as abuse under the FDCPA? There is no clear rule regarding the number of phone calls. However, abuse could include a debt collector who immediately calls you back after you have hung up on him or her, or a collection agency calling numerous times within a short period of time, particularly if you have asked the agency not to call anymore. The main consideration is whether the calls show an intent to annoy, abuse, or harass you. Harassment, unfair practices, or deceit are generally not allowed.
You can stop collections abuse through a set of escalating steps. The first step is to ask the agency to stop contacting you in writing. Once a collector receives written notice to stop contacting you, the collector can no longer contact you except to tell you it is taking a specific action, like filing a lawsuit. Writing to the agency to tell it to stop does not get rid of the possibility of a lawsuit, or the possibility of the collector obtaining a default judgment should you ignore the service of a complaint.
If the harassment does not stop, the next steps you can take include consulting an attorney about whether filing for bankruptcy will help alleviate the problem and also considering whether there have been any violations of the FDCPA. Once bankruptcy is filed, an automatic stay will be triggered. This stay makes it illegal for all creditors listed on your paperwork to continue to try to collect the debt. They can no longer contact you, write you letters, file a lawsuit against you, or continue with an existing lawsuit.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by harassment from multiple sources, filing for bankruptcy may be a sound solution to reduce or stop collections abuse. With the assistance of a bankruptcy lawyer knowledgeable in the Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 processes, South-Central Alabama residents can try to make sure that all debts are included in the stay and the discharge they hope to obtain. Grainger Legal Services represents clients from offices in Prattville, Troy, and Montgomery. Contact us at (334) 260-0500 or via our online form to schedule a free consultation.