Being unable to pay your bills can make you feel powerless. Nasty letters and phone calls can ruin your day, especially when a collector calls your cell phone during work or while you are with friends. Fortunately, there are several consumer protection laws that can redistribute the balance of power and bring you some peace.
One powerful protection is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA. The TCPA prohibits making a call to a cellular telephone using an automatic telephone dialing system without the prior express consent of the called party. This law is often used to stop debt collectors using auto dialing systems to cell phones. The penalties for violating the TCPA start at $500 per phone call.
A debt collection company sued for violating the TCPA can avoid liability by proving that the debtor gave “express consent” to be called on his/her cell phone. The Federal Communications Commission considers “express consent” given when a person provides a cell phone number to a creditor, for example, as part of a credit application. Courts have found that a person can give express consent in other ways including verbal, in writing, or by a spouse. Additionally, the FCC states that calls “placed by a third party collector on behalf of that creditor are treated as if the creditor itself placed the call.”
While express consent may be easy to find, revoking this consent is more problematic. Courts differ whether express consent can only be revoked by giving the creditor and/or collector written notice. Stopping creditor calls to your cell phone may be as easy as sending a written cease and desist notice to the collector. However, revocation of consent under the TCPA does not stop all debt collection calls, only auto dialer calls to your cellular phone.
Filing for bankruptcy is effective to stop all debt collection calls. Once you file bankruptcy, all of your creditors are prohibited from continuing collection attempts, including collection calls. The bankruptcy automatic stay stops collectors cold, and the discharge order at the end of the bankruptcy case stops them permanently.