Federal and state lawmakers have taken steps over the years to protect consumers against aggressive debt collectors. They have passed a number of laws designed to guarantee consumers’ rights. Unfortunately, this has led to the misunderstanding that creditors cannot call debtors at work. Under certain circumstances, some creditors can.
If you receive calls at work from creditors, do not automatically assume that they are breaking the law. Depending on who your creditors are and the legal jurisdiction under which their actions fall, they may have the legal right to contact you at work. If you have any questions, your best course of action is to contact an attorney.
Federal Trade Commission Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) largely governs how creditors and collection agencies can pursue debts. Under the FDCPA, collection agencies are prohibited from calling debtors at work if employers have policies in place preventing such calls. In other words, a collection agency cannot call you at work if your employer forbids you from taking such calls.
So, how do you stop a collection agency from calling you at work? You simply tell them the next time they contact you. They are obligated by law to adhere to that request. However, note that there is a difference between collection agencies and creditors.
Creditors Can Call You at Work
Language in the FDCPA draws a distinction between original creditors and collection agencies. An original creditor is a business entity or organization to whom you owe money directly. The utility company that supplies your electricity is a creditor. So is your cell phone provider, your streaming provider, and so forth.
A collection agency is a third-party hired by a creditor to collect debts on its behalf. This matters under the FDCPA for the simple fact that creditors are allowed to call you at work even though debt collectors may be prohibited from doing so. If you do not pay your utility bill, the gas and electric company has the legal right to contact you at work.
Buyers of Debt
Federal rules pertaining to both creditors and collection agencies are pretty straightforward. But as with most aspects of the law, there is an ambiguous gray area involving firms that buy debt. According to Judgment Collectors, a Salt Lake City, Utah debt collection agency that specializes in court judgments, some collection firms operate on a purchase model.
This means that they buy debt from creditors in the same way they would purchase any other asset. Once purchased, a debt becomes the property of the collection agency. Now that collection agency is no longer working as a third-party on behalf of another. It is working as the actual creditor.
There have been past cases in which courts have ruled that buyers of debt are not subject to the same restrictions placed on collection agencies. On the other hand, other cases have ended in opposite rulings. Courts have determined that buyers of debt are still subject to the same collection agency rules because their entire business models are based on collecting debts that originated with another party.
The long and short of it is that debt collection is subject to a plethora of rules and regulations. There are some times when phone calls to your workplace are appropriate. There are other times when such calls or not. Your only means of knowing for sure is to research applicable federal and state laws. Or better yet just make good on your debts. Pay your bills on time and you will never have to worry about getting calls at work.