Information on Ohio's Consumer Laws from Attorney Daniel Myers, Myers Law, LLC, not legal advice
At one time or another, odds are you have owed someone money. It could be anything from a forgotten utility bill to an overdue credit card payment. Maybe you just forgot about the bill and needed a reminder to pay it. But when a simple reminder doesn’t solve the problem, you may find yourself being pursued by a law firm or debt collection company. Third party collection agencies have many legitimate tools at their disposal, but what are your rights and protections? What remedy do you have when these rights are violated?
If you owe a debt related to your business, for example, the purchase of a bulldozer for a demolition company, you have very few, if any, protections from debt collectors. However, federal and state law protects you from unsavory conduct of third party debt collectors when your debt is a “consumer debt,” meaning the debt was incurred for personal, family, or household purposes, and not for your own business purposes. The most important law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, is a federal law which sets out rules that third party debt collectors must follow. Specifically, the Act creates the following rules:
There are many other rules they must follow, as well—too many to write about here. If they violate any of these rules, you could be entitled to up to $1,000 in damages, plus attorney fees, or possibly more. However, you need to contact and lawyer and a lawsuit must be filed no more than one (1) year after the rule was first broken. After that, it is likely too late to do anything.
If a debt collector violates your rights under this law, it does not wipe out the debt that you owe. But it does give you leverage to negotiate the amount of the debt, and a good legal claim against the debt collector in federal court.
One client contacted me after a debt collector threatened her with jail time, told her she was being indicted for fraud, yelled and berated her on the phone, attempted to collect a debt that was already paid in full, and claimed to be a part of a governmental agency. The debt collector even threatened me with arrest!
It is critical to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible after a violation occurs. Waiting to see if it gets better is not the right decision—it might get better, but it usually does not, and your rights and leverage expire in the meantime. If you think you have been the victim of illegal debt collection practices in the last year, you should contact an attorney immediately.