Are There Limits on How Often a Creditor May Contact You?

Are There Limits on How Often a Creditor May Contact You?

Last updated: June 2009

The following questions were submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "Q&A: The Law," runs in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Illinois Edition) and the Champaign News Gazette. This article was published on February 4, 2009.

Q:    A collection agency keeps calling me.  Is there any limit on how often they can call, or on what hours of the day the can call?  Can they call on weekends?

A:    There’s no specific limit on how frequently a collector can call you.  They can’t, however, “harass, oppress, or abuse” you.

The law does set specific hours a collector can call.  Although they can call 7 days a week, they can’t call before 8 a.m., or after 9 p.m.  

Weekend calls are OK because Sundays are no longer considered to be an inconvenient time to take calls.
The law that applies is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).  It’s a Federal law that has been around since 1978.  It applies to anyone who regularly collects money for someone else.

That means the FDCPA does NOT apply to a creditor who is collecting their own debt.  For example, it does not apply to your bank, or credit card company, when they contact you directly for payment on your account with them.

But, once your bank or credit card company hires somebody to collect for them, you’re dealing with a collector, and the Act applies.

The FDCPA prohibits a collector from contacting you “at any unusual time or place.”  The law goes on to prohibit contacts at “a time or place known or which should be known as inconvenient to the consumer.”

The law specifically presumes that 8 am to 9 pm are convenient times for contacts.  Calls during those hours are OK—unless you’ve told the collector otherwise.

For example, if you work nights, and sleep days, you can tell a collector not to call during the day, but OK calls at hours before 8 am or after 9 pm.

However, you can also simply tell a collector to stop contacting you, period.  That’s probably the most important protection the FDCPA provides—if you say “stop contacting me,” a collector must stop.  If they don’t, they’re violating the law, and you can sue for statutory damages of $1,000, and whatever actual damages you incur.  And because the law allows you to recover your attorney fees, some lawyers actually specialize in filing FDCPA suits.

It’s OK to say “stop contacting me” over the phone, but much better to put it in writing.  And you really don’t have to say more than that.  Date your letter, and keep a copy to prove you told them.

While the law clearly says when collectors can call, it doesn’t clearly say how often they can call.  Cases say a call-a-week for 15 weeks, or 200 calls over 19 months, may violate the law.  Ultimately, though, it’s up to a judge or jury to decide whether the calls in your particular case are so frequent to be considered harassment, oppression, or abuse prohibited by the law.

But, before the frequency of a collector’s calls becomes an issue, just drop the “stop contacting me” bomb.  It’s the FDCPA’s easy way to stop unwanted contacts. 

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