The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, often referred to as the “FDCPA”, was passed by Congress in response to abusive conduct by collection agencies. The purpose of the Act is to provide guidelines for collection agencies which are seeking to collect legitimate debts, while also providing protections and remedies for consumers who are subjected to harassment.
The FDCPA applies to personal, family, and household debts, including debts associated with the purchase of a car, for medical care, for retail financing, for first and second mortgages, and for money owed on credit card accounts. It does not apply to any business debts.
The act regulates the conduct of debt collectors. This definition includes lawyers who perform debt collection services on a regular basis. Even where money is legitimately owed, a debt collector’s conduct is restricted by this law.
In-house collection agents are not ordinarily covered by the Act. For example, if you have a store credit card, and the store’s own collection department contacts you, the FDCPA does not apply.
However if the same store uses an outside collection agency to contact you in relation to that same debt, the outside agency’s conduct is restricted by the FDCPA. Similarly, if the same store uses an in-house collection agent, but suggests to you that the collection is being performed by a third party, the FDCPA may apply to them as a result of that representation.