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Florida’s New Harassment Law Has Yet to Show Its Teeth

The state of Florida passed a new, tougher law to address the continuing issue of creditor harassment. The new law went into effect in October or 2010, but has yet to show its teeth.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) numbers reported in the Orlando Sentinel show that complaints about debt collectors rose 17% nationally in 2010. Often these complaints are about how collection agencies are harassing debtors. From abusive language and threats to the use of phone calls and Facebook, debt collectors will try to bully or embarrass debtors into paying the debt.

With stories of how debt collectors harass debtors, Florida’s new law, which allows for increased penalties, seems like an appropriate way for the state to protect the rights of debtors and to stop creditor harassment. The Orlando Sentinel reports that in the six months since the law’s enactment, the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) has received over 440 complaints, but has yet to penalize a single collection agency for harassment.

Attorney Tim Kingcade doesn’t seem surprised by the state’s lack of action against the abusive debt collectors. He told the Orlando Sentinel that officials don’t really consider the complaints a priority because the harassed debtors have the ability to file a lawsuit against the debt collectors.

FDCPA Debtor Protections

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors are specifically forbidden from engaging in certain conduct, including:

  • Calling at inconvenient times or places – debt collectors not allowed to call before 8 am or after 9 pm. Also, debt collectors are not allowed to contact a debtor at work if the debt collectors are told that the debtor is unable to receive calls at work.
  • Harassment – debt collectors are not allowed to harass, oppress or abuse debtors through tactics such as threats, obscene language or publishing debtors’ names.
  • False statements – debt collectors must be truthful in their communications with debtors. As such, debt collectors are not allowed to use tactics like falsely claiming to be attorneys, falsely claiming that a debtor has committed a crime or misrepresent the amount that is owed.

If a creditor is harassing you report it to Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation and then speak with an attorney about the harassment. Depending on your financial situation, you may have a host of options for taking control of your debt, including by filing bankruptcy.

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