Full text of Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
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PUBLIC LAW 95-109—SEPT, 20, 1977 91 STAT. 874 Public Law 95-109 95th Congress An Act Sept. 20, 1977 [H.R. 5294] To amend the Consumer Credit Protection Act to prohibit abusive practices by debt collectors. • Consumer Credit Protection Act, amendment. Be it enacted hy the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of Anberica m Congress assembled.) That the Consumer Credit Protection Act (15 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) is amended by adding ^^ ^j^g ^^^ thereof the following new title: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. "Sec. 15 u s e 1601 note. 15 u s e 1692. "TITLE VIII—DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES "801. "802. "803. "804. "805. "806. "807. "808. "809. "810. "811. "812. "813. "814. "815. "816. "817. "818. Short title. - Findings and purpose. Definitions. Acquisition of location information. Communication in connection with debt collection. Harassment or abuse. False or misleading representations. Unfair practices. Validation of debts. Multiple debts. Legal actions by debt collectors. Furnishing certain deceptive forms. Civil liability. Administrative enforcement. Reports to Congress by the Commission. Relation to State laws. Exemption for State regulation. Effective date. > "§ 801. Short title "This title may be cited as the 'Fair Debt Collection Practices Act'. "§ 802. Findings and purpose "(a) There is abundant evidence of the use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices by many debt collectors. Abusive debt collection practices contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy. " (b) Existing laws and procedures for redressing these injuries are inadequate to protect consumers. " (c) Means other than misrepresentation or other abusive debt collection practices are available for the effective collection of debts. "(d) Abusive debt collection practices are carried on to a substantial extent in interstate commerce and through means and instrumentalities of such commerce. Even where abusive debt collection practices are purely intrastate in character, they nevertheless directly affect interstate commerce. "(e) I t is the purpose of this title to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to insure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and to promote consistent State action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses. PUBLIC LAW 95-109—SEPT. 20, 1977 91 STAT. 875 "§803. Definitions 15 use 1692a. "As used in this title— "(1) The term 'Commission' means the Federal Trade Commission. "(2) The term 'communication' means the conveying of information regarding a debt directly or indirectly to any person through any medium. "(3) The term 'consumer' means any natural person obligated or allegedly obligated to pay any debt. "(4) The term 'creditor' means any person who otfers or extends credit creating a debt or to whom a debt is owed, but such term does not include any person to the extent that he receives an assignment or transfer of a debt in default solely for the purpose of facilitating collection of such debt for another. "(5) The term 'debt' means any obligation or alleged obligation of a consumer to pay money arising out of a transaction in which the money, property, insurance, or services which are the subject of the transaction are primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, whether or not such obligation has been reduced to judgment. "(6) The term 'debt collector' means any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another. Notwithstanding the exclusion provided by clause (G) of the last sentence of this paragraph, the term includes any creditor Avho, in the process of collecting his own debts, uses any name other than his own which would indicate that a third person is collecting or attempting to collect such debts. For the purpose of section 808(6), such term also includes any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the enforcement of security interests. The term does not include— "(A) any officer or employee of a creditor while, in the name of the creditor, collecting debts for such creditor; "(B) any person while acting as a debt collector for another person, both of whom are related by common ownership or affiliated by corporate control, if the person acting as a debt collector does so only for persons to whom it is so related or affiliated and if the principal business of such person is not the collection of debts; "(C) any officer or employee of the United States or any State to the extent that collecting or attempting to collect any debt is in the performance of his official duties ; "(D) any person while serving or attempting to serve legal process on any other person in connection with the judicial enforcement of any debt ; " ( E ) any nonprofit organization which, at the request of consumers, performs bona fide consumer credit counseling and assists consumers in the liquidation of their debts by receiving payments from such consumers and distributingsuch amounts to creditors; " ( F ) any attorney-at-law collecting a debt as an attorney on behalf of and in the name of a client; and 91 STAT. 8 7 6 J ) 15 use 1692b. 15 u s e 1692c. PUBLIC LAW 95-109—SEPT. 20, 1977 " ( G ) any person collecting or attempting to collect any debt owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another to the . extent such activity (i) is incidental to a bona fide fiduciary obligation or a bona fide escrow arrangement; (ii) concerns a debt which was originated by such person; (iii) concerns a debt which was not in default at the time it was obtained by such person; or (iv) concerns a debt obtained by such person as a secured p a r t y in a commercial credit transaction involving the creditor. " ( 7 ) T h e term 'location information' means a consumer's place of abode and his telephone number at such place, or his place of employment, " ( 8 ) T h e t e r m ' S t a t e ' m e a n s any State, territory, or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of P u e r t o Eico, or any political subdivision of any of t h e foregoing. «§ 804. Acquisition of location information "Any debt collector communicating with any person other than the consumer for the purpose of acquiring location information about t h e consumer shall— " ( 1 ) identify himself, state t h a t he is confirming or correcting location information concerning the consumer, and, only if expressly requested, identify his employer; " ( 2 ) not state t h a t such consumer owes any debt; " ( 3 ) not communicate with any such person more t h a n once unless requested to do so by such person or unless the debt collector reasonably believes t h a t the earlier response of such person is erroneous or incomplete and that such person now has correct or complete location information; " ( 4 ) not communicate by post c a r d ; ''(5) not use any language or symbol on any envelope or in the contents of any communication effected by the mails or telegram t h a t indicates t h a t the debt collector is in the debt collection business or t h a t the communication relates to the collection of a debt; and " (6) after the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with regard to the subject debt and has knowledge 01, or can readily ascertain, such attorney's name and address, not communicate with any person other than t h a t attorney, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to communication from the debt collector. "§ 805. Communication in connection with debt collection " (a) COMMUNICATION W I T H T H E CONSUMER G E N E R A I X Y . — W i t h o u t the prior consent of t h e consumer given directly to the debt collector or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt— " ( 1 ) at any unusual time or place or a time or place known or which should be known to be inconvenient to the consumer. I n the absence of knowledge of circumstances to the contrary, a debt collector shall assume t h a t the convenient time for communicating with a consumer is after 8 o'clock antimeridian and before 9 o'clock postmeridian, local time at the consumer's location; " ( 2 ) if the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with respect to such debt and has knowledge of, or can readily ascertain, such attorney's name and address, unless PUBLIC LAW 95-109—SEPT. 20, 1977 91 STAT. 877 the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to a communication from the debt collector or unless the attorney consents to direct communication with the consumer; or " (3) at the consumer's place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know t h a t the consumer's employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication. *'(b) COMMUNICATION W I T H T H I R D PARTIES.—Except as provided in section 804, without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector, or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as reasonably necessary to effectuate a post judgment judicial remedy, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other t h a n the consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector. " ( c ) CEASING COMMUNICATION.—If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing t h a t the consumer refuses to pay a debt or t h a t the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease fuither communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except— " ( 1 ) to advise the consumer that the debt collector's further efforts are being terminated; " ( 2 ) to notify the consumer t h a t the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or " ( 3 ) where applicable, to notify the consumer t h a t the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy. I f such notice from the consumer is made by mail, notification shall be complete upon receipt. " ( d ) F o r the purpose of this section, the term 'consumer' includes t h e consumer's spouse, parent (if the consumer is a m i n o r ) , guardian, executor, or administrator. "§ 806. Harassment or abuse " A debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. W i t h o u t limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section: " ( 1 ) T h e use or t h r e a t of use of violence or other criminal means to h a r m the physical person, reputation, or property of any person. " ( 2 ) T h e use of obscene or profane language or language the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader. " (3) The publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a consumer reporting agency or to persons meeting the requirements of section 603(f) or 604(3) of this Act. " ( 4 ) The advertisement for sale of any debt to coerce payment of the debt. " ( 5 ) Causing a telephone to r i n g or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number. " ( 6 ) Except as provided in section 804, the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller's identity. "§ 807. False or misleading representations "A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt. 15 use 1692(1. 15 use 1681a, 1681b. 15 use 1692e. 91 STAT. 878 ^ '• PUBLIC LAW 95-109—SEPT. 20, 1977 Without limiting the general application ot tue foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section: "(1) The false representation or implication that the debt collector is vouched for, bonded by, or affiliated with the United States or any State, including the use of any badge, uniform, or facsimile thereof. " (2) The false representation of— "(A) the character, a.mount, or legal status of any debt; or ; "(B) any services rendered or compensation which may be lawfully received by any debt collector for the collection of a debt. "(3) The false representation or implication that any individual is an attorney or that any comnumication is from an attorney. "(4) The representation or implication that nonpayment of any debt will result in the arrest or imprisonment of any person or the seizure, garnishment, attachment, or sale of any property or wages of any person unless such action is lawful and the debt collector or creditor intends to take such action. " (5) The threat to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken. "(6) The false representation or implication that a sale, referral, or other transfer of any interest in a debt shall cause the consumer to— "(A) lose any claim or defense to payment of the debt; or "(B) become subject to any practice prohibited by this ;, title. "(7) The false representation or implication that the consumer committed any crime or other conduct in order to disgrace the consumer. "(8) Communicating or threatening to communicate to any person credit information which is known or which should be known to be false, including the failure to communicate that a disputed debt is disputed. "(9) The use or distribution of any written communication which simulates or is falsely represented to be a document authorized, issued, or approved by any court, official, or agency of the United States or any State, or which creates a false impression as to its source, authorization, or approval. "(10) The use of any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a consumer. "(11) Except as otherwise provided for communications to acquire location information under section 804, the failure to disclose clearly in all communications made to collect a debt or to obtain information about a consumer, that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose. "(12) The false representation or implication that accounts have been turned over to innocent purchasers for value. "(13) The false representation or implication that documents are legal process. "(14) The use of any business, company, or organization name other than the true name of the debt collector's business, company, or organization. "(l''^) The false representation or implication that documents are not legal process forms or do not require action by the consvimer. PUBLIC LAW 95-109~SEPT. 20, 1977 91 STAT. 879 "(16) The false representation or implication that a debt collector operates or is employed by a consumer reporting agency as defined by section 603 (f) of this Act. 15 USC 1681a. "§ 808. Unfair practices 15 USC I692f. "A debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section: "(1) The collection of any amount (including any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law. "(2) The acceptance by a debt collector from any person of a check or other payment instrument postdated by more than five days unless such person is notified in writing of the debt collector's intent to deposit such check or instrument not more than ten nor less than three business days prior to such deposit. " (3) The solicitation by a debt collector of any postdated check or other postdated payment instrument for the purpose of threatening or instituting criminal prosecution. " (4) Depositing or threatening to deposit any postdated check or other postdated payment instrument prior to the date on such check or instrument. " (5) Causing charges to be made to any person for communications by concealment of the true purpose of the communication. Such charges include, but are not limited to, collect telephone calls and telegram fees. "(6) Taking or threatening to take any nonjudicial action to effect dispossession or disablement of property if— " (A) there is no present right to possession of the property claimed as collateral through an enforceable security interest; "(B) there is no present intention to take possession of the property; or "(C) the property is exempt by law from such dispossession or disablement. "(7) Communicating with a consumer regarding a debt by post card. "(8) Using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector's address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails or by telegram, except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business. "§ 809. Validation of debts 15 USC I692g. "(a) Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing— "(1) the amount of the debt; "(2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed; '" "(3) a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or anj'^ portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector; 29-194 0 - 8 0 91 STAT. 880 ^ 15 use I692h. 15 use I692i. f' 15 use 1692J. PUBLIC LAW 95-109—SEPT. 20, 1977 " ( 4 ) a statement t h a t if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period t h a t the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector; and " ( 5 ) a statement that, upon the consumer's written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor. " ( b ) If the consumer notifies the debt collector in w r i t i n g within the thirty-day period described in subsection (a) t h a t the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or t h a t the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector. "(c) The failure of a consumer to dispute the validity of a debt under this section may not be construed by any court as an admission of liability by the consumer. "§ 810. Multiple debts " I f any consumer owes multiple debts and makes any single payment to any debt collector with respect to such debts, such debt collector may not apply such payment to any debt which is disputed by the consumer and, where applicable, shall apply such payment in accordance with the consumer's directions. "§ 811. Legal actions by debt collectors " ( a ) A n y debt collector who brings any legal action on a debt against any consumer shall— " (1) in the case of an action to enforce an interest in real property securing the consumer's obligation, b r i n g such action only in a judicial district or similar legal entity in Avhich such real property is located; or " ( 2 ) in the case of an action not described in p a r a g r a p h ( 1 ) , bring such action only in the judicial district or similar legal entity— " ( A ) in which such consumer signed the contract sued u p o n ; or " ( B ) in which such consumer resides at the commencement of the action. " ( b ) Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize the bringing of legal actions by debt collectors. "§ 812. Furnishing certain deceptive forms " (a) I t is unlawful to design, compile, and furnish any form knowing t h a t such form would be used to create the false belief in a consumer t h a t a person other than the creditor of such consumer is participating in the collection of or in an attempt to collect a debt such consumer allegedly owes such creditor, when in fact such person is not so participating. " ( b ) Any person who violates this section shall be liable to the same extent and in the same manner as a debt collector is liable under section 813 for failure to comply with a provision of this title. PUBLIC LAW 95-109—SEPT. 20, 1977 91 STAT. 881 "§ 813. Civil liability 15 USC 1692k. " ( a ) Except as otherwise provided by this section, any debt collector who fails to comply with any provision of this title with respect to any person is liable to such person in an amount equal to the sum of— " ( 1 ) any actual dama<j;e sustained by such person as a result of such failure; " ( 2 ) ( A ) in the case of any action by an individual, such additional damages as the court may allow, but not exceeding $1,000 ; or " ( B ) in the case of a class action, (i) such amount for each named plaintiff as could be recovered under subparagraph ( A ) , and (ii) such amount as the court may allow for all other class members, without regard to a minimum individual recovery, not to exceed the lesser of $500,000 or 1 per centum of the net worth of the debt collector; and " ( 3 ) in the case of any successful action to enforce the foregoing liability, the costs of the action, together with a reasonable attorney's fee as determined by the court. On a finding by the court t h a t an action under this section was brought in bad faith and for the purpose of harassment, the court may award to the defendant attorney's fees reasonable in relation to the work expended and costs, " ( b ) I n determining the amount of liability in any action under subsection ( a ) , the court shall consider, among other relevant factors— " ( 1 ) in any individual action under subsection (a) (2) ( A ) , the frequency and persistence of noncompliance by the debt collector, the nature of such noncompliance, and the extent to which such noncompliance was intentional; or " ( 2 ) in any class action under subsection (a) (2) ( B ) , the frequency and persistence of noncompliance by the debt collector, the nature of such noncompliance, the resources of the debt collector, the number of persons adversely affected, and the extent to which the debt collector's noncompliance was intentional. " ( c ) A debt collector may not be held liable in any action brought under this title if the debt collector shows by a preponderance of evidence t h a t the violation was not intentional and resulted from a bona fide error notwithstanding the maintenance of procedures reasonably adapted to avoid any such error. " ( d ) A n action to enforce any liability created by this title may be Jurisdiction. brought in any appropriate United States district court without regard to the amount in controversy, or in any other court of competent jurisdiction, within one year fi-om the date on which the violation occurs. " ( e ) No provision of this section imposing any liability shall apply to any act done or omitted in good faith in conformity with any advisory opinion of the Commission, notwithstanding t h a t after such act or omission has occurred, such opinion is amended, rescinded, or determined by judicial or other authority to be invalid for any reason. "§ 814. Administrative enforcement 15 USC 1692/. " ( a ) Compliance with this title shall be enforced by the Commission, except to the extent that enforcement of the requirements imposed under this title is specifically committed to another agency under subsection ( b ) . F o r purpose of the exercise by the Commission of its functions and powers under the Federal T r a d e Commission Act, a 15 USC 58. violation of this title shall be deemed an unfair or deceptive act or practice in violation of t h a t Act. All of the functions and powers of 91 STAT. 882 15 use 58. PUBLIC LAW 95-109—SEPT. 20, 1977 the Commission under the Federal Trade Commission Act are available to the Commission to enforce compliance by any person with this :j;., title, irrespective of whether that person is engaged in commerce or meets any other jurisdictional tests in the Federal Trade Commission Act, including the power to enforce the provisions of this title in the same manner as if the violation had been a violation of a Federal Trade Commission trade regulation rule. "(b) Compliance with any requirements imposed under this title shall be enforced under— 12 use 1818. "(1) section 8 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, in the case of— "(A) national banks, by the Comptroller of the Currency; "(B) member banks of the Federal Reserve System (other than national banks), by the Federal Reserve Board; and "(C) banks the deposits or accounts of which are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (other than members of the Federal Reserve System), by the Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; 12 use 1464. "(2) section 5(d) of the Home Owners Loan Act of 1933, sec12 use 1730. tion 407 of the National Housing Act, and sections 6(i) and 17 12 use 1426, of the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, by the Federal Home Loan 1437. Bank Board (acting directly or through the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation), in the case of any institution subject to any of those provisions; 12 use 1751. "(3) the Federal Credit Union Act, by the Administrator of the National Credit Union Administration with respect to any Federal credit union; " (4) the Acts to regulate commerce, by the Interstate Commerce Commission with respect to any common carrier subject to those Acts; 49 use 1301 "(5) the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, by the Civil Aeronautics note. Board with respect to any air carrier or any foreign air carrier subject to that Act; and 7 use 181. "(6) the Packers and Stockyards Act, 1921 (except as provided in section 406 of that Act), by the Secretary of Agriculture with 7 use 226, 227. respect to any activities subject to that Act. "(c) For the purpose of the exercise by any agency referred to in subsection (b) of its powers under any Act referred to in that subsection, a violation of any requirement imposed under this title shall s ;i be deemed to be a violation of a requirement imposed under that Act. In addition to its powers under any provision of law specifically referred to in subsection (b), each of the agencies referred to in that subsection may exercise, for the purpose of enforcing compliance with any requirement imposed under this title any other authority conferred on it by law, except as provided in subsection (d). "(d) Neither the Commission nor any other agency referred to in subsection (b) may promulgate trade regulation rules or other regulations with respect to the collection of debts by debt collectors as defined in this title. 15 use 1692m. "§ 815. Reports to Congress by the Commission " (a) Not later than one year after the effective date of this title and at one-year intervals thereafter, the Commission sliall make reports to the Congress concerning the administration of its functions under this ' ' title, including such; recommendations as the C(;pimission deems necessary or appropriate. In addition, each report of the Commission shall include its assessment of the extent to which compliance with this title PUBLIC LAW 95-109—SEPT. 20, 1977 is being achieved and a summary of the enforcement actions taken by the Commission under section 814 of this title. "(b) In the exercise of its functions under this title, the Commission may obtain upon request the views of any other Federal agency which exercises enforcement functions under section 814 of this title. "§ 816. Relation to State laws "This title does not annul, alter, or affect, or exempt any person subject to the provisions of this title from complying with the laws of any State with respect to debt collection practices, except to the extent that those laws are inconsistent with any provision of this title, and then only to the extent of the inconsistency. For purposes of this section, a State law is not inconsistent with this title if the protection such law affords any consumer is greater than the protection provided by this title. "§ 817. Exemption for State regulation "The Commission shall by regulation exempt from the requirements of this title any class of debt collection practices within any State if the Commission determines that under the law of that State that class of debt collection practices is subject to requirements substantially similar to those imposed by this title, and that there is adequate provision for enforcement. "§ 818. Effective date "This title takes effect upon the expiration of six months after the date of its enactment, but section 809 shall apply only with respect to debts for which the initial attempt to collect occurs after such effective date.". Approved September 20, 1977. LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: HOUSE REPORT No. 95-131 (eomtn. on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs). SENATE REPORT No. 95-382 (eomm. on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs). eONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Vol. 123 (1977): Apr. 4, considered and passed House. Aug. 5, considered and passed Senate, amended. Sept. 8, House agreed to Senate amendment. WEEKLY COMPILATION OF PRESIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS, Vol. 13, No. 39: Sept. 20, Presidential statement. 91 STAT. 883 15 u s e 1692n. 15 u s e 16920. 15 u s e 1692 note.