Last week, we discussed how Sunshine State residents are protected from harassment, abuse and fraudulent practices by original creditors, debt collectors and third-party debt buyers under the collective powers of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act.
Specifically, we spent some time examining the protective scope of the FCCPA, which is designed as a sort of supplement to the FDCPA, and the practices it expressly prohibits on the part of creditors and debt collectors. We'll continue this discussion in today's post, exploring the remedies available to consumers for violations of the FCCPA.
In the event a creditor or debt collector chooses to disregard their obligation to refrain from the deceptive or abusive practices set forth in the FDCPA, the affected consumer not only has the option of filing a complaint with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, but also pursuing a civil lawsuit.
If the consumer prevails in court, he or she may be entitled to the following:
- Actual damages
- Statutory damages (up to $1,000)
- Legal expenses (i.e., court costs and attorney's fees)
- Punitive damages (left to the discretion of the judge)
- Equitable relief (injunctions, etc.)
It's worth noting that with the exception of original creditors, licensed attorneys, financial institutions, banks and real estate/insurance professionals, all debt collection agencies operating in Florida -- whether based here or in other state -- are required to register with state officials.
While the failure to do so can result in the levying of up to $10,000 in administrative fines by the Office of Financial Regulation, only this agency and the Florida Attorney General's Office are vested with the authority to take action in this area.
If you have been victimized by what you believe to be illegal conduct by debt collectors, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights under the FCCPA and the FDCPA.