Massachusetts law and fair debt collection (Part 2)

We'll continue our earlier discussion of debt collection and Massachusetts law in this post. The information regarding fair debt collection practices is intended not as specific legal advice, but as a general background on the topic.

We noted previously that the number of attempts collectors may make to contact you within a given time are limited, but so are the hours of the day within which they may make such attempts. Collectors have to assume that your normal waking hours are between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., unless you tell them otherwise. They may not try to contact you outside of these hours. This applies to phone calls as well as attempts to collect in-person at your home.

The law also restricts what collectors can say to you in an attempt to collect a debt. They cannot use foul language or swear at you. They cannot make false or misleading claims, either, and they cannot threaten you with imprisonment or other legal actions that are not actually on the table. Additionally, they cannot talk to anyone else about the debt, including family members, coworkers, friends, or relatives, although they may contact them in an attempt to obtain your current address and contact information. However, they cannot disclose that the information is being gathered for the purposes of debt collection).

It is also important to know that if an extended period of time has passed, a debt may no longer be legally enforceable. If this is the case, collectors must advise you of this fact. This is especially true because any payments you do make at that point can affect the legal status of the debt, thereby giving collectors greater leverage.

Finally, collection agencies may not attempt to circumvent a Quincy resident's legal representation if he or she has retained an attorney. Many do find that an attorney can provide valuable insight into debt relief strategies and dealing with creditors. Filing for bankruptcy, for example, will trigger an automatic stay that halts all debt collection efforts for the duration of the bankruptcy process.

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