West Virginia Creditor Harassment Laws
According to the 2014 Annual Report issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – the federal agency charged with protecting consumers from unscrupulous debt collectors – creditor harassment continues to be a problem for many of those struggling with debt. In fact, this report revealed that the Federal Trade Commission received 204,464 complaints related to debt collection practices in 2013 alone, an increase when compared to the previous year.
Of these complaints, the most common allegations of wrongful conduct included claims that debt collectors placed repeated harassing phone calls, made false threats of illegal or unintended acts and misrepresented the amount, status or character of the debt owed – acts that are all prohibited under the federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA)
However, while the protections afforded by the FDCPA are typically well known, many people may be surprised to learn that West Virginia also has its own laws that can be used to hold debt collectors accountable for their illegal and abusive collection practices. Specifically, these laws are contained in the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (WVCCPA), and can offer consumers legal options in addition to those available under the FDCPA.
Consumer Credit and Protection Act in West Virginia
Similar to the prohibitions listed under the FDCPA, the WVCCPA expressly states that debt collectors:
- May not use unreasonably oppressive or abusive collection practices, such as using obscene or profane language or by making repeated or continuous collection calls with the intent to annoy
- May not use fraudulent, deceptive or misleading representations to collect a debt, such as using a false business name or misrepresenting the amount or character of the debt owed
- May not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect a debt
- May not use violence, or the threat of violence, to collect a debt
Importantly, the prohibitions listed above are merely a small sampling of the debt collection practices outlawed by the WVCCPA, not to mention that this particular Act also provides consumers several remedies when creditors engage in such practices.
For instance, the WVCCPA permits consumers to seek statutory damages and allows consumers to make the debt collector pay for their reasonable attorney fees and court costs. Moreover, debt collectors may face criminal charges if they willfully violate some of the provisions of the WVCCPA.
Ultimately, given the many intricacies of West Virginia debt collection law, it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible if you are struggling with debt and are be subjected to creditor harassment. Not only can an attorney fully explain your rights and options, but once you retain counsel, debt collectors may risk additional penalties if they persist in their collection attempts by contacting you directly.