There are plenty of laws regulating bill collectors. The trouble is, most people are completely unaware of these laws.
In California, state and federal law restricts what bill collectors can say and do. Here are two good ways to stop bill collectors from calling you.
Ask Them to Stop – Really!! This sounds too good to be true, right? Let me explain. The law gives bill collectors the right to contact you about a delinquent bill. The apparent assumption is that you might have misplaced the bill or forgotten to send a check, and a quick call might straighten things out. Of course professional bill collectors go to the extreme, often reminding people several times per day. For consumers overwhelmed with debt endless “reminder” calls are no help. The law acknowledges this reality and gives consumers the right to stop collection calls by making a simple written request.
Here is what federal law says:
“(c) 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 communications with the consumer.” – 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(c).
Notice the law requires that the collector be notified in writing which means simply telling a bill collector, “stop calling me, you’re driving me crazy!,” does not work. Once notified in writing they must cease all communication with you. As a practical matter, the best method is to send a letter by certified mail and keep a copy so you have proof the collector was notified in writing.
Hire an Attorney – Once you hire an attorney the collector must communicate exclusively with the attorney. Here’s what federal law says:
“A debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt—
(2) if the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with respect to such debt and has knowledge of…” – 15 U.S.C. 1692(c)(a)(2)
As a practical matter, the best method is to send a letter to the collector by certified mail and keep a copy so you have proof the collector was notified in writing.
All this sounds great but there must be a catch, and there is. The bill collection industry is notorious for shady operations and unlawful practices. If a bill collector violates the law you are required to sue in court to force the issue. In most cases, the bill collector will comply with the law to avoid the risk of being sued, but not always.
Despite theses laws, the most common method used by consumers to deal with collector calls is to not answer the phone unless they recognize the name of the caller. Most bill collectors will show on caller ID as “unavailable” or “blocked,” and consumers quickly learn not to answer those calls. This time-honored method works for many consumers as long as delayed response to phone calls is acceptable. Unfortunately, for many business owners phone calls are the lifeblood of the business, rendering this strategy counterproductive.
At the Law Office of Michael Primus we have helped thousands of clients get out of debt, stop wage garnishments, and start fresh through bankruptcy. If you live in Contra Costa, Alameda or Solano counties and have debt problems, contact us for a free in-office consultation. We have offices in Walnut Creek, Antioch, and Hercules.