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The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

The FDCPA requires debt collectors to follow some fundamental rules. California also has its own Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which is broader than the federal law, commencing with Civil Code section 1788.


Congress enacted the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in 1978 to prevent abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices. The law can be found at 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq.

The FDCPA provides methods for ensuring the validity of collection demands, and establishes ethical guidelines for third-party debt collectors (debt collection agencies). California law goes further and establishes similar guidelines for the original creditor.

Generally, the FDCPA prohibits any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt. Some of the fundamental protections are:

Creditor must notify debtor of their right to challenge or “validate” the debt in the initial communication
Creditor may not contact a debtor it knows to be represented by an attorney
Creditor may not threaten arrest
Creditor may not harass
Creditor may not threaten legal action that is not actually contemplated
Creditor may not call before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
Creditor must not continue to contact debtor after debtor requests, in writing, that creditor to terminate communications

Attorney Fees

The FDCPA allows civil lawsuits against debt collectors, and permits debtors to recover their actual damages, plus statutory damages and attorneys’ fees & costs for violations (15 U.S.C. § 1692).