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For individuals in California, there are two laws that can assist you if you are a victim of unlawful collection practices. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §1692 et seq. (“FDCPA”) and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Cal. Civil Code §1788 et seq. (“Rosenthal Act”) both prohibit unlawful debt collection. These laws were designed to end deceptive, abusive, behavior from debt collectors, and additionally, unfair debt collection practices.
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from harassing consumers while attempting to collect a debt. Unfair debt collection can consist of harassing phone calls that include annoying persons by repeatedly calling them, or using obscene or profane language while on the phone with the consumer. Other forms of unfair debt collection practices are when a debt collector falsely represents the amount of the debt when in communication with the consumer, and if the debt collector continues to call after the consumer tells the debt collector to stop calling.
If you are receiving excessive phone calls, threats or insults, call us and we can get the calls to stop. If a debt collector has lied to you or disclosed information about your debt to friends, families, or co-workers we can represent you in a case against the abusive debt collector. We have been successful in several cases with these exact-fact patterns. Debt collectors are known to take any measures necessary in an attempt to make you pay on the alleged debt.
If you don’t believe you owe a debt you are being contacted about, you can retain us to write a cease and desist dispute letter. Within 30 days of receiving the initial notice or contact, you can request verification of the debt and may also include in that letter that you do not want the debt collector to contact you anymore via telephone. Often times innocent people are victims of debt collection harassment for accounts that do not even belong to them. In our dispute letter, we request that the creditor or debt collector product documentation showing: (1) that the creditor or debt collector has the right to seek collection of the debt; (2) the debt balance, including an explanation of any interest charges and additional fees; (3) the date of default and the date of the last payment; (4) the name of the charge-off creditor and the account number associated with the debt; (5) the name and last known address of the debtor as it appeared in the charge-off creditor’s records; (6) the names of all persons or entities that have purchased the debt; and (7) a copy of the contract or other document evidencing an agreement to the debt.
This formal dispute of the alleged debt is pursuant to the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. §1692g(b); and verification, validation pursuant to 15 U.S.C. §1692g(b). Depending on their response it may also lead to further violations of the FDCPA.
Yes, violations of the FDCPA or Rosenthal Act may result in a suit being brought against the creditor or debt collection company. A plaintiff is entitled to $1,000 in statutory damages from the defendant for violations of the FDCPA. 15 U.S.C. §1692k(a)(2)(A). A plaintiff is further entitled to $1,000 for violations of the Rosenthal Act. Cal. Civ. Code § 1788.30(b).
A plaintiff is also entitled to emotional distress damages. In a recent California case that involved a violation of the FDCPA and Rosenthal Act, a jury in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California awarded a plaintiff $500,000 against a debt collector who called a debtor 90 times and made false claims. Fausto v. Credigy Services Corporation, Case No. 5:07-cv-05658-JW (N.D. Cal. 2009). The verdict consisted of $100,000 in actual damages and $400,000 in punitive damages. Id.
The results have been similar in state court on violations of the Rosenthal Act. In Komarova v. National Credit Acceptance, Inc., 175 Cal.App.4th 324 (2009) a jury awarded $197,905 in damages for the violations of the Rosenthal Act; $2,905 in economic loss, and $195,000 for noneconomic loss. The jury further awarded the plaintiff punitive damages of $75,000. Attorneys’ fees are also recoverable under the FDCPA and Rosenthal Act.
It’s important for all people to keep good records of all communications with a debt collector. It’s also important to monitor your credit report as you never know when a debt collector might come after you for something that you do not even owe.
At Golden & Cardona-Loya, LLP, we practice in the field of protecting the rights of California consumers. If you feel you have been wrongfully contacted regarding a debt, or are receiving multiple calls from debt collectors a day, do not hesitate and contact us today at 619-476-0030.