The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) limits the method in which debt collectors and creditors interact with consumers when attempting to collect a debt. The act prohibits creditors and debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive tactics when collecting debt from consumers. Additionally, it provides a right to bring litigation against wrongdoers and to recover damages and attorneys’ fees.
What is Prohibited Under the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act?
Florida Statute 559.72 describes several actions in which debt collectors and creditors are prohibited from engaging in. Examples include:
- Simulate in any manner a law enforcement officer or a representative of any governmental agency;
- Use or threaten to use force or violence;
- Use profane, obscene, vulgar, or willfully abusive language in communicating with the debtor or any member of his or her family;
- Refuse to provide adequate identification of herself or himself or her or his employer or other entity whom she or he represents if requested to do so by a debtor from whom she or he is collecting or attempting to collect a consumer debt;
- Communicate with the debtor between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. in the debtor’s time zone without prior consent of the debtor;
- Cause a debtor to be charged for communications by concealing the true purpose of the communication, including collect telephone calls and telegram fees;
- Publish or post, threaten to publish or post, or cause to be published or posted before the general public individual names or any list of names of debtors, commonly known as a deadbeat list, for the purpose of enforcing or attempting to enforce collection of consumer debt;
- Communicate with a debtor under the guise of an attorney by using the stationary of an attorney or forms or instruments that only attorneys are authorized to prepare.
Who Must Comply with The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act?
The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act is aimed at debt collectors and original creditors. The act requires that all debt collectors, whether from Florida or another state, to be registered with the State of Florida. However, registration is limited to debt collectors only – original creditors, attorneys, banks and other financial institutions, and real estate and insurance professionals are exempt from this requirement.
What Happens When The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act is Violated?
In the event that any provision of Florida Statute 559.72 is violated, the violating party will be liable for actual damages as well as court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the plaintiff. The court may also allow additional statutory damages (not exceeding $1,000), and in its determination, the court will consider:
- The nature of the defendant’s noncompliance with the statute;
- The frequency and persistence of the noncompliance; and
- The extent to which the noncompliance was intentional.
Moreover, the court may award punitive damages as it deems necessary or proper, including issuing an injunction to prevent defendant from further violations. However, if the court finds that the suit fails to raise a justiciable issue of law or fact, then the plaintiff will be liable for court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the defendant.