Guarding against unlawful debt collection practices in Texas
State and federal laws protect Texans against abuse, harassment and unfair practices from debt collectors, with remedies available for violations.
Falling behind on financial obligations can be incredibly stressful, as many people in Sherman know firsthand. Unfortunately, in addition to this strain, people who are in debt often face frequent and unwanted contact from debt collectors. Some people may even be targeted with questionable or illegal debt collection tactics. Fortunately, Texas law offers consumers numerous protections against these unfair debt collections practices.
The Texas Debt Collection Act and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices – Consumer Protection Act prohibit debt collection agencies and employees from engaging in several practices. These include:
- Fraud – debt collection agencies cannot misrepresent themselves or the debt owed in order to make a consumer disclose information or pay the debt. Debt collectors may not send misleading documents or make misleading statements.
- Harassment – consumers are also protected against frequent, nonstop or anonymous telephone calls from debt collectors.
- Abuse – debt collection agencies may not threaten consumers with arrest, repossession, violence or other illegal activities. Debt collectors also cannot make knowingly false accusations or use foul language when interacting with consumers.
Consumers in Texas are additionally protected under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Besides prohibiting abuse, harassment and other unfair practices, the Act bans debt collectors from calling consumers at work, if the collector is aware that the employer does not allow such calls. The Act also prohibits calls between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m., unless there is evidence that those times best suit the consumer’s schedule.
If a consumer chooses to file bankruptcy, he or she gains further protection; bankruptcy creates an automatic stay, which stops all creditor actions for the duration of the bankruptcy proceedings. Debt collection agencies cannot even contact consumers during this time.
Recourse for violations
Unfortunately, debt collectors do not always observe state and federal laws. However, there are several measures in place to discourage or stop violations.
Under the Texas Debt Collection Act, debt collectors may face criminal and civil sanctions for illegal practices. In one notable 2013 case, a debt collection agency based in Plano was fined $3.2 million for unlawful tactics. According to CNN, the agency called consumers during work, at odd hours and even after their debts had been paid. During the settlement, the agency was ordered to investigate the status of debts before contacting consumers and cease contact if consumers requested it.
Under Texas law, the victims of violations like these may pursue injunctions to stop the illegal practices. Anyone who believes a debt collection agency has crossed the line into unfair or illegal practices should consider speaking to a bankruptcy attorney with experience in creditor harassment. An attorney can provide advice on stopping inappropriate debt collection practices and taking steps to resolve the debt.
Keywords: bankruptcy, debt, collection