Legal action by a debt collector is regulated by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
This powerful federal statute restricts the venue (location) where a debt collector can file debt collection lawsuits.
For unsecured consumer debt, such as personal credit cards, the law requires that any legal action taken by a debt collector be filed either in the judicial district (or county):
- in which the debtor entered into the credit card agreement, or
- in which the debtor resides at the time the lawsuit is filed
See, FDCPA at 15 U.S.C. § 1692i
Prior to enactment of the FDCPA, this consumer protection was envisioned by Federal Trade Commission and a variety of court decisions.
When a credit card agreement was never actually “signed” by the consumer, the courts have held that legal action by debt collectors should be filed in the county where the debtor lives.
Examples of Improper Legal Action by Debt Collectors
This restriction may prevent debt collectors from filing third-party or bankruptcy claims in a pending legal action when that pending case falls outside of the venue required under the FDCPA.
This restriction also applies to new debt collector law firms that take over the case from the prior attorney. When the new law firm files a Notice of Appearance as the attorney of record in the lawsuit, it can be immediately held liable for the existence of this improperly venued legal action.
A debt collector may avoid liability for violation of this forum selection provision where a valid excuse for the mistake is shown. For example, where debt collection legal action was filed in the county listed on U.S. Postal Service address correction forms, the debt collector was excused from liability.
However when legal action by debt collectors is found at fault, the consumer may recover a $1,000 statutory penalty, plus actual damages and legal fees.
Has a debt collector taken legal action against you?
When credit card bills go unpaid, the bank’s attorneys may file a debt collection lawsuit against you in court.
If you have been served with a legal notice, call our defense lawyers for a free consultation today.
We fight to protect New York consumers from improper debt collection in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Bronx, Long Island and beyond.