MA Bankruptcy – Debt Collectors and What They CANNOT Do To You

April 10, 2010

By Bankruptcy Attorney Kara O’Donnell – O’DONNELL LAW OFFICES – 857-526-1355

As you debtors are probably already aware, debt collectors come in a variety of shades and colors. Sometimes the debt is still “in house” (meaning it is still within the company that issued the credit card or gave the loan). Sometimes the debt is with a collection agency or even with a law firm. Regardless of who owns the debt, there are laws which control any company whose business it is to collect a debt – i.e. DEBT COLLECTORS.

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the main debt collector law is MGL Chapter 93: Section 49.

Here are some highlights:
Subsection A: The collector can threaten to report the debt to a bureau. The collector may NOT reveal information about the debt to third parties, such as neighbors, employers, etc.

Subsection C: “The creditor communicates with the alleged debtor in such a manner as to harass or embarrass the alleged debtor, including, but not limited to communication at an unreasonable hour, with unreasonable frequency, by threats of violence, by use of offensive language, or by threats of any action which the creditor in the usual course of business does not in fact take.” This is a pretty broad prohibition. However, the Federal law (see below) outlines when those “reasonable hours” are and provides more clarification.

Subsection D: “The creditor communicates with alleged debtors through the use of forms or instruments that simulate the form and appearance of judicial process.” Creditors/collectors cannot send you documents appearing to be from the court or a lawsuit if, in fact, there is no suit pending.

If you have experienced any of the above, it “shall constitute an unfair or deceptive act or practice under the provisions of chapter 93A.” You may choose to contact an attorney who can file a “93A Complaint” for you.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides that any of the follwing acts is a violation:
-Hours for phone contact: contacting consumers by telephone outside of the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. local time.
-Failure to cease communication upon request: communicating with consumers in any way (other than litigation) after receiving written notice that said consumer wishes no further communication or refuses to pay the alleged debt, with certain exceptions, including advising that collection efforts are being terminated or that the collector intends to file a lawsuit or pursue other remedies where permitted.
-Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously: with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.
-Communicating with consumers at their place of employment after having been advised that this is unacceptable or prohibited by the employer.
-Communicating with consumer after request for validation has been made but prior to the debtor receiving a response to the request.
-Misrepresentation or deceit: misrepresenting the debt or using deception to collect the debt, including a debt collector’s misrepresentation that he or she is an attorney or law enforcement officer.
-Threatening arrest.
-Threatening legal action that is either not permitted or not actually contemplated.
-Abusive or profane language used in the course of communication related to the debt.

If collectors have engaged in any of the FDCPA prohibited acts while trying to collect a debt from you, they you may wish to hire an attorney to file a FDCPA Complaint on your behalf. The collector can be subject to a $1,000 for each violation.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: you cannot be arrested, they cannot garnish your wages if you are not (or was not) in a lawsuit, they cannot call you at your employer if you tell them to stop (in MA it is only for 10 days but tell them anyway), and they cannot call you multiple times all day long.

Kara O’Donnell, Esq.
Quincy, Massachusetts

Posted by Kara O’Donnell


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