Debt Collection – Ceasing Communications
Creditors have the right to attempt to collect the debts that are owed them; however, debtors also have certain rights in regard to collection practices. If a third party, such as a collection agency, is attempting to collect the debt for the creditor the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) applies, as may other laws. That law gives the debtor the right to have the collection agency stop communications with the debtor at the debtor’s place of employment, pursuant to section 805(a)(3) of the FDCPA. Such a request can be made orally or in writing. The law also gives a debtor the right to have the collection agency stop all communications with the debtor. If a debtor wishes to exercise that right the debtor should write a letter to the collection agency that reads:
Dear (insert collection agency name):
Please stop all communications with me regarding my alleged debt with (insert creditor’s name). Any further communications other than the exceptions listed under section 805(c) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act will be considered a violation of that Act and will be reported to the WI Department of Financial Institutions and the Federal Trade Commission.
If the debtor does not want all communications to stop, but rather only telephone communications, the letter should be revised accordingly by inserting the word “telephone” after the word “all.” The debtor can add additional information to the letter. Debtors should keep a copy of the letter for their records and it would be helpful when mailing the letter that a copy of any collection letter received from the collection agency be included.
Specifically, section 805(c) of the FDCPA states:
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 the creditor (not a collection agency) is attempting to collect the debt then the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply; however, the Wisconsin Consumer Act (“WCA”) may apply if the debt is the result of a credit transaction (e.g., loan, credit card, auto lease). The WCA does not specifically give debtors the right to stop all communications from a creditor but does prohibit harassing collection practices. For a creditor to continue to communicate with a debtor after the debtor requested that such communications stop could, in some cases, be considered harassment.