Debt Collection Practices
The questions and answers below are courtesy of the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner (OCCC).
The OCCC frequently receives questions and complaints from consumers about the negative debt collection practices they experience. Examples of unlawful creditor behavior includes excessive amount of telephone calls to debtors, misrepresentation of the facts to third parties, threats of arrest, and illegal repossession. If you have complaints about the collection practices of an OCCC licensed lender, please call the Consumer Assistance Hotline at 800.538.1579 or fill out a complaint form and send it to this agency (mailing address, e-mail address, and fax number provided on the form).
Sometimes lenders contract with independent debt collection firms to manage their accounts. This agency has no regulatory authority over these third-party collectors.
If you have a complaint about a professional agency or a third-party debt collector, the Texas Attorney General’s Consumer Protection (enespañol) division can help you determine your rights call 800.621.0508. You may also want to file a complaint with American Collectors Association of Texas, an organization representing third-party collection agencies in Texas.
- Get answers from the American Collectors Association of Texas to their 25 most frequently asked questions about debt collection agencies.
Creditor Harassment: Frequently Asked Questions
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that debt collectors treat you fairly and prohibits certain methods of debt collection. Of course, the law does not erase any legitimate debt you owe. Debt collection practices in Texas must comply with both Texas debt collection law and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Federal Trade Commission provides an excellent source of detailed information on its fair debt collection page most of the text from that page is presented here for your convenience.
What debts are covered?
Personal, family, and household debts are covered under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This includes money owed for the purchase of an automobile, for medical care, or for charge accounts.
Who is a debt collector?
A debt collector is any person who regularly attempts to collect debts owed to themselves or others included in this definition are attorneys who collect debts on a regular basis. Note that the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies only to collectors working for professional collection agencies and attorneys hired to collect debts. Texas law addresses actions taken by anyone trying to collect on a consumer debt.
How may a debt collector contact you?
A collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax. However, a debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., unless you agree. A debt collector also may not contact you at work if the collector knows that your employer disapproves of such contacts.
Can you stop a debt collector from contacting you?
You can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a certified letter to the collector telling them to stop. Keep a copy for your records. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact or to notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action. Please note, however, that sending such a letter to a collector does not make the debt go away if you actually owe it. You could still be sued by the debt collector or your original creditor.
May a debt collector contact anyone else about your debt?
If you have an attorney, the debt collector must contact the attorney, rather than you. If you do not have an attorney, a collector may contact other people, but only to find out where you live, what your phone number is, and where you work. Collectors usually are prohibited from contacting such third parties more than once. In most cases, the collector may not tell anyone other than you and your attorney that you owe money.
What must the debt collector tell you about the debt?
Within five days after you are first contacted, the collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money.
May a debt collector continue to contact you if you believe you do not owe money?
A collector may not contact you if, within 30 days after you receive the written notice, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money. However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed.
What types of debt collection practices are prohibited?
Prohibited behaviors include harassment, false statements, and other unfair practices.
Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, debt collectors may not:
- Use threats of violence or harm
- Publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau)
- Use obscene or profane language
- Repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone
Debt collectors may not use any false or misleading statements when collecting a debt. For example, debt collectors may not:
- Falsely imply that they are attorneys or government representatives
- Falsely imply that you have committed a crime
- Falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit bureau
- Misrepresent the amount of your debt
- Indicate that papers being sent to you are legal forms when they are
- Debt collectors also may not state that:
- You will be arrested if you do not pay your debt
- They will seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages, unless the collection agency or creditor intends to do so,
- Actions, such as a lawsuit, will be taken against you, when such action legally may not be taken, or when they do not intend to take such action
- Give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit bureau
- Send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency when it is not
- Use a false name
Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, collectors may not:
- Collect any amount greater than your debt, unless your state law permits such a charge
- Deposit a post-dated check prematurely
- Use deception to make you accept collect calls or pay for telegrams take or threaten to
- Take your property unless this can be done legally
- Contact you by postcards