Many people with credit card debt complain of harassment and humiliation by debt collectors who constantly call them at home and even work to demand payments.
Reddit users with that dilemma recently sought advice from California attorney Eric Ridley, who answered a slew of debt- and bankruptcy-related questions in a popular Reddit AMA under the name ridleylaw.
To which Ridley replied, “Most people don’t know that you have rights and don’t need to tolerate mistreatment, mistakes, harassment, guilt, endless phone calls, or any other creditor mischief.”
Ridley, who has sued abusive debt collectors, made his Reddit audience aware of a law that makes it illegal for debt collectors to continue calling them at home and work, as long as the borrower follows a couple simple steps.
That law, 15 U.S. Code § 1692c, applies specifically to communication related to debt collection under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The “ceasing communication” section of the law, available on the website of the Legal Information Institute, reads:
“If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt …”
The only permitted exception is to inform the consumer that the debt collector is ending further efforts or resorting to “specified remedies,” the law continues.
In other words, the creditor or the debt collector can still sue debtors; they just can’t keep contacting them at home or at work.
The law also states that the debt collector cannot communicate with a consumer “at the consumer’s place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication.”
Ridley explains how easy it is for someone facing constant calls at their workplace to invoke this law to their advantage.
Ohio poet and author Joylynn M. Jossel is one example of a victim of harassment at her workplace. She entered a common vicious cycle of debt through so-called payday lenders, who typically give loans under $US500 due on the borrower’s next payday. That led to constant phone calls from collection agencies at the office where she worked as a paralegal.
“It never hurt my standing at my company, but I felt like everyone knew what was going on,” Jossel told DailyFinance. “I mean, honestly, everybody goes to the receptionist to get the dirt on employees … Every time the phone rang, I’d jump like I was the next one in a horror movie to be taken out.”
People like Jossel can escape this treatment simply by knowing their rights according to this law and voicing it. Ridley told Reddit users he is concerned about young people’s lack of knowledge about finance in general, especially their rights when they find themselves in debt.
“[T]hey’ve simply never learned about how money works, and notably about their rights when bad people try to take advantage of them,” he wrote.