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Debt Collection Practices

Many Americans hear calls from debt collectors or receive letters in the mail reminding them of some money they have yet to pay. Know that harassment is not legal, and that debtors are protected by certain laws from debt collectors who are abusive, unfair, or deceptive in their methods for receiving a payment.

How Debtors Are Protected

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the agency protecting the rights afforded to all consumers; and they are also tasked with upholding the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA is a law that prohibits debt collectors from harassing those who owe money.

Furthermore, as a resident of California, you have another layer called the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collections Act (also known as the California Rosenthal Act). Though the two of these acts are, at their foundation, the same, the Rosenthal Act, or California Civil Code No. § 1788- § 1788.32, contains within it a lot of language that basically hands a great power the debtor. Should the debtor feel a debt collector is acting unjustly, the Rosenthal Act outlines all actions that can potentially be taken.

How to Act When Contacted

Whether it is by mistake or for proper reason, a debt collector may contact someone. The debtor may be unaware that a creditor has referred their account to a debt collector, and the creditor is not required to disclose this course of action. When a debt collector proceeds with asking for a payment, they will generally give the amount owed, the name of the creditor, and how the bill needs to be disputed within 30 days of the initial contact.

The debtor then must provide evidence and a written statement that they are not indebted to a creditor within 30 days. When unsure about how to proceed, a wise course of action is to contact an attorney.

Illegal Actions

Debt collectors and debtors should be aware of what behaviors are allowable under the FDCPA. Unless agreed upon, debt collectors cannot call the debtor at inconvenient times, such as 5 am in the morning or late at night, nor can a collector call the location where someone is employed if they have been warned not to do so. Should the workplace allow it, debtors can be contacted at work. It is also against the law for debt collectors to pretend to be someone else in order to threaten or trick a debtor into making a payment.

Other illegal actions as outlined by the California Civil Code No. § 1788- § 1788.32 (Rosenthal Act) are:

  • Civil Code § 1788.10: the use, or threat of use, of physical force or violence or any criminal means to cause harm to person or property; accusation of crime; communication to third party individuals about the debtor’s finances; the threat of arresting the debtor or seizure, garnishment, attachment or sale of any property belonging to the debtor;

  • Civil Code § 1788.11: consumer debt cannot be collecting use obscene or profane language; using an undisclosed identity to make calls; cause expense to the debtor with long distance calls, telegram fees, or similar charges; cause the telephone to ring continuously (form of harassment);

  • Civil Code § 1788.12: aside from employers who have not authorized contact with employees, debt collectors may not speak to any other of the debtor’s family but their spouse, parents, or guardians; utilizing a “deadbeat list”; utilizing methods meant to humiliate the debtor;

  • Civil Code § 1788.13- § 1788.15: no false representation such a legal or federal; false representation providing information about alleged failure of payment; and also the collection, auditing, claiming, and other actions of gathering information by the debtor or for them while under false representation. Nor can a debt collector obtain affirmation from a debtor who has been adjudicated a bankrupt; collect more than the amount of debt; or use judicial proceedings to collect more than the allotted amount.

  • Civil Code § 1788.16: should a debt collector attempt to collect a payment or full amount by using a falsely authorized, issued, or approved document by the federal government, it is a misdemeanor which can be punishable with imprisonment up to 6 months and/or a fine of $2500.

  • Civil Code § 1788.22: use of credit transactions when such privileges have been terminated is unacceptable; and both debt collector and debtor must contact the creditor if unauthorized transactions were made to the account in question;

  • Civil Code § 1788.30: any debt collector who knowingly violates any code, and whose unjust action is known to the debtor, can be penalized in court with a fine of $100 to $1000. Also, the debtor’s fees for legal representation may have to be repaid.

Though this is just a succinct briefing on how the debtor is protected by the California Rosenthal Act from unfair and unjustifiable practices of debt collectors, these are the essential parts. Debtors need to be aware that harassment of any type is not legal. Debt collectors need to comprehend that lying, threatening, or harming a debtor can cause them up to $1000 fine along with having to repay the debtor for legal expenses.

It is important to retain experienced and professional attorneys in order to maximize the effectiveness of your claim. Please call Aziz Legal by phone (408) 203-4627 or email us at

This article is merely informational and is not intended to be used as legal advice. Use of any information from this article is for general information only and does not represent personal legal or tax advice, either express or implied. Readers are encouraged to consult Aziz Legal, or another attorney, for any specific legal matters.

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