If you believe bill collectors are harassing you, take comfort in knowing that there are guidelines, specifically the Fair Debt Collection Practices Laws, designed to prohibit abusive practices by debt collectors. These laws further ensure fairness between your creditor and you. The state of Tennessee makes full use of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act of 1977 and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
History and Function
Initially enacted into law in 1978, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides guidelines for how debt collectors may conduct themselves when they contact you. Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, the purpose of the Act is to limit intimidating tactics used by creditors attempting to collect debts from you. The Act outlines general parameters that creditors must adhere to and outlines your basic rights in dealing with harassment from creditors. At times, the Act is used in combination with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which provides protection for when reporting agencies report your credit information and regulates debt collection.
In Tennessee, violations of the laws of debt recovery that you may not know include communicating with you in any way, besides litigation, after receiving written notice from you to cease further communication or your refusal to pay the alleged debt. Your creditors also may not contact you if they know you are represented by an attorney and may not attempt any communications with you at your place of employment after you advise that your employer prohibits such personal contacts.
The Tennessee Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows debt collectors to contact other people, but only to find out your whereabouts. Note that listing your number on the federal Do Not Call list does not prevent collectors from calling you in reference to your debt. Tennessee laws, however, do not allow collection agencies to call you before 8 a.m. and they cannot call you after 9 p.m., local time. Debt collectors also may not make threats of legal action or arrest that is either not allowed or not actually considered, and they may not place your personal demographic information on any list for publication. In the course of communications with you related to your debts, your creditors may not use abusive or profane language.
The Tennessee debt recovery laws provide limitations to the techniques that collection agencies can use to recover debt from you. They also inform consumers of their rights to counteract harassment from creditors. Communication is vital. The first step you should take is to contact the collection agency and speak to someone directly. Other options available to you include writing a letter to the collection agency informing it that you do not wish to be contacted or that you dispute the validity of the debt. If you believe your rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs. You also can file suit if your rights are violated.