Laws

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (aka FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., is a United Statesstatute added in 1978 as Title VIII of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. Its purposes are to eliminate abusive practices in the collection of consumer debts, to promote fair debt collection, and to provide consumers with an avenue for disputing and obtaining validation of debt information in order to ensure the information’s accuracy. The Act creates guidelines under which debt collectors may conduct business, defines rights of consumers involved with debt collectors, and prescribes penalties and remedies for violations of the Act. It is sometimes used in conjunction with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Prohibited conduct:

The Act prohibits certain types of “abusive and deceptive” conduct when attempting to collect debts, including the following:

  • Hours for phone contact: contacting consumers by telephone outside of the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. local time
  • Failure to cease communication upon request: communicating with consumers in any way (other than litigation) after receiving written notice that said consumer wishes no further communication or refuses to pay the alleged debt, with certain exceptions, including advising that collection efforts are being terminated or that the collector intends to file a lawsuit or pursue other remedies where permitted
  • Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously: with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number
  • Communicating with consumers at their place of employment after having been advised that this is unacceptable or prohibited by the employer
  • Contacting consumers known to be represented by an attorney
  • Communicating with consumers after request for validation: communicating with the consumer or pursuing collection efforts by the debt collector after receipt of a consumer’s written request for verification of a debt (or for the name and address of the original creditor on a debt) and before the debt collector mails the consumer the requested verification or original creditor’s name and address
  • Misrepresentation or deceit: misrepresenting the debt or using deception to collect the debt, including a debt collector’s misrepresentation that he or she is an attorney or law enforcement officer
  • Publishing the consumer’s name or address on a “bad debt” list
  • Seeking unjustified amounts, which would include demanding any amount not permitted under an applicable contract or as provided under applicable law
  • Threatening arrest or legal action that is either not permitted or not actually contemplated
  • Abusive or profane language used in the course of communication related to the debt
  • Communication with third parties: revealing or discussing the nature of debts with third parties other than the consumer’s spouse or attorney
  • Contact through embarrassing media such as communicating with a consumer regarding a debt by post card, using any language or symbol other than the debt collector’s address on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of mail or by telegram (except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business)
  • Reporting false information on a consumer’s credit report or threatening to do so in the process of collection

LINK: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre27.pdf

Fair Credit Reporting Act:

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is an American federal law (codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.) that regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including consumer credit information. Along with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), it forms the base of consumer credit rights in the United States. It was originally passed in 1970 and is enforced by the US Federal Trade Commission. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is designed to promote accuracy and to ensure the privacy of the information used in consumer reports.

LINK: http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/031224fcra.pdf

Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act:

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA) is a federal consumer-rights law that was enacted in 2003, amending the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Its primary purpose is to reduce the risk of identity theft by regulating how consumer account information (such as Social Security numbers) are handled. FACTA is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Office of Thrift Supervision.

LINK: http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/031224fcra.pdf

The Fair Credit Billing Act:

The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) is a United States federal law enacted as an amendment to the Truth in Lending Act (codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq.). Its purpose is to protect consumers from unfair billing practices and to provide a mechanism for addressing billing errors in “open end” credit accounts such as credit cards or charge card accounts.[1]

The following are examples of billing errors under the FCBA:

  • Charges not actually made by the consumer
  • Charges in the wrong amount
  • Charges for goods not received by the consumer
  • Charges for goods not delivered as agreed
  • Charges for goods that were damaged on delivery
  • Failure to properly reflect payments or credits to an account
  • Calculation errors
  • Charges that the consumer wants clarified or requests proof of
  • Statements mailed to the wrong address

LINK: http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fcb/fcb.pdf

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act:

HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. A major component of HIPAA addresses the privacy of individuals’ health information by establishing a nation-wide federal standard concerning the privacy of health information and how it can be used and disclosed. This federal standard will generally preempt all state privacy laws except for those that establish stronger protections. The HIPAA privacy laws are effective April 14, 2003.

Generally, HIPAA “covered entities” will have to comply with HIPAA rules for any health or medical information of identifiable individuals, including their medical records, medical billing records, any clinical or research databases, and tissue bank samples. Covered entities are healthcare providers, health plans (including employer’s sponsored plans), and healthcare clearing houses (e.g., billing agent). SU, SHC, and LPCH will be HIPAA covered entities as both healthcare providers and through their HR sponsored health benefit plans. Since not all of SU’s functions meet the definition of a covered entity, it will be able to treat itself as a “hybrid” and exclude certain units from HIPAA coverage. The covered units will generally not be able to communicate or transfer protected health information to the non-covered units without violating HIPAA. SU’s covered units will join with SHC and LPCH to be a single covered entity under HIPAA.

LINK: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/summary/privacysummary.pdf