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Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

To amend the Consumer Credit Protection Act and to prohibit abusive practices by debt
collectors.Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United
States of America in Congress assembled, That the Consumer Credit Protection Act (15
U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new title:
up 801. Short Title [15 USC 1601 note]
This title may be cited as the “Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.”
up § 802. Congressional findings and declarations of purpose [15 USC 1692]
(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) It 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.
up § 803. Definitions [15 USC 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 offers 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 (F) of the last sentence of this paragraph, the term
includes any creditor who, 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 distributing such amounts to creditors;
and
(F) 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 party in a
commercial credit transaction involving the creditor.
(7) The term “location information” means a consumer’s place of abode and his
telephone number at such place, or his place of employment.
(8) The term “State” means any State, territory, or possession of the United States, the
District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any political subdivision of
any of the foregoing.
up § 804. Acquisition of location information [15 USC 1692b]
Any debt collector communicating with any person other than the consumer for the
purpose of acquiring location information about the consumer shall —
(1) identify himself, state that he is confirming or correcting location information
concerning the consumer, and, only if expressly requested, identify his employer;
(2) not state that such consumer owes any debt;
(3) not communicate with any such person more than once unless requested to do so by
such person or unless the debt collector reasonably believes that 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 card;
(5) not use any language or symbol on any envelope or in the contents of any
communication effected by the mails or telegram that indicates that the debt collector is
in the debt collection business or that 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 of, or can readily ascertain, such
attorney’s name and address, not communicate with any person other than that attorney,
unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to the
communication from the debt collector.
up § 805. Communication in connection with debt collection [15 USC 1692c]
(a) COMMUNICATION WITH THE CONSUMER GENERALLY. Without the prior
consent of the 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. In the absence of knowledge of circumstances to the
contrary, a debt collector shall assume that 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 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 that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such
communication.
(b) COMMUNICATION WITH THIRD 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 postjudgment judicial remedy, a debt collector may not communicate, in
connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than a 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 that
the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to
cease further 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 that 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 that the debt collector or creditor intends to
invoke a specified remedy.
If such notice from the consumer is made by mail, notification shall be complete upon
receipt.
(d) For the purpose of this section, the term “consumer” includes the consumer’s
spouse, parent (if the consumer is a minor), guardian, executor, or administrator.
up § 806. Harassment or abuse [15 USC 1692d]
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. Without
limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of
this section:
(1) The use or threat of use of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical
person, reputation, or property of any person.
(2) The 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 ring 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.
up § 807. False or misleading representations [15 USC 1962e]
A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or
means in connection with the collection of any debt. Without limiting the general
application of the 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, amount, 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
communication 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) The failure to disclose in the initial written communication with the consumer and, in
addition, if the initial communication with the consumer is oral, in that initial oral
communication, that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any
information obtained will be used for that purpose, and the failure to disclose in
subsequent communications that the communication is from a debt collector, except that
this paragraph shall not apply to a formal pleading made in connection with a legal
action.
(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.
(15) The false representation or implication that documents are not legal process forms
or do not require action by the consumer.
(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.
up § 808. Unfair practices [15 USC 1692f]
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 propose 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.
up § 809. Validation of debts [15 USC 1692g]
(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 any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be
valid by the debt collector;
(4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirtyday
period that 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 writing within the thirty-day period
described in subsection (a) that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that 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 any 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.
up § 810. Multiple debts [15 USC 1692h]
If 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.
up § 811. Legal actions by debt collectors [15 USC 1692i]
(a) Any 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, bring such action only in a judicial district or similar legal entity in
which such real property is located; or
(2) in the case of an action not described in paragraph (1), bring such action only in the
judicial district or similar legal entity —
(A) in which such consumer signed the contract sued upon; 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.
up § 812. Furnishing certain deceptive forms [15 USC 1692j]
(a) It is unlawful to design, compile, and furnish any form knowing that such form would
be used to create the false belief in a consumer that 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.
up § 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 damage 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 that 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) In 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 that 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) An action to enforce any liability created by this title may be 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 from 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 that 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.
up § 814. Administrative enforcement [15 USC 1692l]
(a) Compliance with this title shall be enforced by the Commission, except to the extend
that enforcement of the requirements imposed under this title is specifically committed to
another agency under subsection (b). For purpose of the exercise by the Commission of
its functions and powers under the Federal Trade Commission Act, a violation of this title
shall be deemed an unfair or deceptive act or practice in violation of that Act. All of the
functions and powers of the Commission under the Federal Trade Commission Act are
available to the Commission to enforce compliance by any person with this 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 —
(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;
(2) section 5(d) of the Home Owners Loan Act of 1933, section 407 of the National
Housing Act, and sections 6(i) and 17 of the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, by the
Federal Home Loan Bank Board (acting directing or through the Federal Savings and
Loan Insurance Corporation), in the case of any institution subject to any of those
provisions;
(3) the Federal Credit Union Act, by the Administrator of the National Credit Union
Administration with respect to any Federal credit union;
(4) subtitle IV of Title 49, by the Interstate Commerce Commission with respect to any
common carrier subject to such subtitle;
(5) the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, by the Secretary of Transportation with respect to
any air carrier or any foreign air carrier subject to that Act; and
(6) the Packers and Stockyards Act, 1921 (except as provided in section 406 of that
Act), by the Secretary of Agriculture with 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 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.
up § 815. Reports to Congress by the Commission [15 USC 1692m]
(a) Not later than one year after the effective date of this title and at one-year intervals
thereafter, the Commission shall make reports to the Congress concerning the
administration of its functions under this title, including such recommendations as the
Commission deems necessary or appropriate. In addition, each report of the
Commission shall include its assessment of the extent to which compliance with this title
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.
up § 816. Relation to State laws [15 USC 1692n]
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.
up § 817. Exemption for State regulation [15 USC 1692o]
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.
up § 818. Effective date [15 USC 1692 note]
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
ENDNOTES
1. So in original; however, should read “604(a)(3).”
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
Public Law 95-109 [H.R. 5294]
HOUSE REPORT No. 95-131 (Comm. on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs).
SENATE REPORT No. 95-382 (Comm. on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs).
CONGRESSIONAL 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.
AMENDMENTS:
SECTION 621, SUBSECTIONS (b)(3), (b)(4) and (b)(5) were amended to transfer
certain administrative enforcement responsibilities, pursuant to Pub. L. 95-473, § 3(b),
Oct. 17, 1978. 92 Stat. 166; Pub. L. 95-630, Title V. § 501, November 10, 1978, 92 Stat.
3680; Pub. L. 98-443, § 9(h), Oct. 4, 1984, 98 Stat. 708.
SECTION 803, SUBSECTION (6), defining “debt collector,” was amended to repeal the
attorney at law exemption at former Section (6)(F) and to redesignate Section 803(6)(G)
pursuant to Pub. L. 99-361, July 9, 1986, 100 Stat. 768. For legislative history, see H.R.
237, HOUSE REPORT No. 99-405 (Comm. on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs).
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD: Vol. 131 (1985): Dec. 2, considered and passed House.
Vol. 132 (1986): June 26, considered and passed Senate.
SECTION 807, SUBSECTION (11), was amended to affect when debt collectors must
state (a) that they are attempting to collect a debt and (b) that information obtained will
be used for that purpose, pursuant to Pub. L. 104-208 § 2305, 110 Stat. 3009 (Sept. 30,
1996).