I have an inquiry or complaint about a collection agency - Financial Regulation
Abusive debt collection practices can contribute to personal bankruptcies, employment and marital instability, invasion of privacy, mental anguish and emotional distress. Even in times of economic prosperity, it may be difficult to meet certain financial obligations due to a sudden loss of income, coping with a catastrophic injury, or other adverse situations. Maryland has been at the forefront of protecting consumers against abusive debt collection practices by licensing collection agencies and enforcing the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act.
The Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act1 ("the Act") provides recourse to Maryland consumers whose rights under the Act have been violated. Please be advised that the Act does not apply to any commercial transaction or transactions entered to carry on a business interest. Also, the collection of certain obligations owed to a state or the federal government may preempt the law. Under the Act a collector who violates any provision of the Maryland law is liable for damages proximately caused by the violation, including damages for emotional distress or mental anguish suffered with or without accompanying injury.
Types of debts covered under the law: Consumer transactions involving a person seeking or acquiring real or personal property, services, money or credit for personal, family, or household purpose.
Types of individuals subject to the law: Any person collecting or attempting to collect an alleged debt arising out of consumer transaction. This includes creditors and or any person hired as an employee of the creditor, and third party collection organizations and attorneys who collect debts for another.
Types of collection acts prohibited: In collecting or attempting to collect an alleged debt, a collector may not:
- Use or threaten force or violence.
- Threaten criminal prosecution, unless the transaction is a violation of a criminal statute.
- Disclose or threaten to disclose any information which affects your reputation for credit worthiness with knowledge that the information is false.
- Contact your employer with respect to a delinquent indebtedness before obtaining a final judgment against you.
- Disclose or threaten to disclose to a person other than yourself, or your spouse (or parent if the debtor is a minor) information which affects your reputation, whether or not for credit worthiness, with knowledge that the other person does not have a legitimate business need for the information.
- Communicate with you or a person related to you at unusual hours or in any other manner as reasonably can be expected to abuse or harass you.
- Use obscene or grossly abusive language in communicating with you or a person related to you.
- Claim, attempt, or threaten to enforce a right with knowledge that the right does not exist.
- Use a communication which simulates legal or judicial process or gives the appearance of being authorized, issued or approved by a government, government agency or lawyer when it is not.
To File a Complaint at the Federal Level
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB") has published action letters for consumers to consider using when corresponding with debt collectors. The letters address the following situations:
- When the consumer needs more information on the debt (Word)
- When the consumer wants to dispute the debt and for the debt collector to prove responsibility or stop communication (Word)
- When the consumer wants to restrict how and when a debt collector can contact them (Word)
- When the consumer has hired a lawyer (Word)
- When the consumer wants the debt collector to stop any and all contact (Word)
Or you can write the CFPB at the following address:
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
P.O. Box 4503
Iowa City, Iowa 52244
Or Fax 855-237-2392
Phone Number: 855-411-CFPB (2372)
8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday-Friday
The CFPB has a list of frequently asked questions and answers concerning debt collection.
The Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission also collects complaints about abusive collection agency practices and enforces compliance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your complaints can help detect patterns of wrong-doing, and lead to investigations and prosecutions. The FTC enters all complaints it receives into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database that is used by thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement authorities worldwide. The FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints. The FTC has published several articles on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Or you can write the FTC at the following address:
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Toll-free helpline: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)
1Maryland Code Annotated, Commercial Law, Title 14, Subtitle 2 [Note: to access the Maryland Code Annotated from this link, select the "Maryland Code" folder, then select the individual folders or links provided to delve into the volumes, chapters, and/or sections of the publication.]