In Pennsylvania and nationally, there are many laws that a debt collector must follow for the protection of the debtor. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is one such law on the federal level.
Debtor victims of unfair practices may make complaints of violations to the Federal Trade Commission, which may decide to take action against the violator. A debtor can also report the transgression to his or her state Attorney General’s office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. However, those actions may be too little or too late to help a particular debtor who is being unfairly treated.
When a collector has violated one or more of a debtor’s rights, he or she can do more than file a report with the FTC. The debtor can proactively sue the collector.
According to the FTC, a debtor experiencing violations of his or her rights can take personal court action as well as reporting officially to the FTC. A victim may file suit against the violator in court. This may be federal court or state court. Class action suits are also possible, should many debtors fall victim to the collector. The debtor needs to file the suit within one year of the violation, as per the statute of limitations. If the debtor prevails on the claim in court, the results may include the following:
- The court may order that the collector compensate the debtor for any damages suffered due to the illegal treatment
- The court may award the debtor up to $1000 if he or she proves the violation, even if unable to prove actual damages
- The court may order the violator to pay the debtor’s attorney’s fees and court costs
Attorney’s fees are critical, as it allows those without much wherewithal to be able to sue a creditor with attorney help. Note that regardless of what the court orders for remedy, unless otherwise defeated in its own court battle or elsewhere, the debt of the debtor does not change in the unfair debt collections court case. The debtor still must pay on it unless he or she can otherwise resolve it.