Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 19, 2018

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Have you been getting too many automated debt collection calls? If so, you may be entitled to compensation under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The question is, how many calls does it take to violate the FDCPA or the Telephone Consumer Protection Act?

Illegal Debt Collection Practices

If you owe someone money, they certainly have a right to try and collect it by calling you. However, it matters how many times they call you a day, week or month using automated debt collection calls, also known as robocalls, which are automated phone calls that use both a computerized autodialer and a computer-delivered pre-recorded message.

While there’s no rule to define how many calls it takes to constitute an illegal debt collection practice, a U.S. District Court judge in Tennessee recently ruled that 17 calls a month was too much and that consumers who received these calls are entitled to file suit against the debt collector. In his opinion, he reasoned:

“The frequency of [the defendant’s] calls to [the plaintiff’s] telephone and the manner in which [the defendant] called [the plaintiff’s] cellular telephone using an automatic telephone dialing system could plausibly cause an unsophisticated consumer to feel harassed, oppressed or abused.” It’s that language which can be seen in several debt collection consumer laws.

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Consumer Debt Protection Laws

Consumers are protected by several laws to make sure that debt collection practices are fair and reasonable. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) are two of those laws which, if violated, can result in up to $1,500 in fines per violation. Here’s how they work:

  • FDCPA. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from using telephone calls “repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse or harass.”
  • TCPA. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibits calls using any automatic telephone dialing system or artificial or prerecorded voices to several cell phones and other places.

Debt Collector Violations Getting Worse

The number of debt collectors who violate these consumer protection laws has doubled over the past few years according to the Federal Trade Commission. However, debt collection lawyers say that consumers do not have to put up with this behavior and encourage them to seek the advice of an attorney to make the calls and harassment stop once and for all.