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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > April 2011 > Understanding debt collection laws

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Understanding debt collection laws


April is National Financial Literacy Month, so it is a great time to take charge of your credit and understand your rights regarding debt collection.

The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act protect consumers from abusive, deceptive and unfair debt collection practices.

Although the law requires debt collectors to treat you fairly and prohibits certain methods of debt collection, it does not erase any legitimate debt that you owe.

Your rights:

  • A debt collector must send you a letter within five days after contacting you by phone, including how much you owe, to whom you owe it and how long you have to dispute the debt.
  • You have 30 days from the date you are contacted by the debt collector to send the collector a letter disputing the debt and specifically requesting verification of the debt.
  • Whether or not you owe the debt, you can tell debt collectors in writing not to contact you again. That does not eliminate the debt.

Debt collectors may not:

  • Harass or use obscene words when talking to you.
  • Contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Contact you without identifying themselves.
  • Tell others about your debt.
  • Contact you at work if your employer disapproves.

Debt collectors also may not threaten you with arrest or jail time. Ohio law prohibits imprisoning individuals who are unable to pay their debts, also called “debtor’s prison.”

Debts covered under consumer protection laws

The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act cover consumer debts used primarily for personal, family or household purposes, such as credit cards, auto loans, utility bills, medical bills, mortgages and some student loans.

The laws do not cover debt owed to a governmental agency, such as unpaid parking tickets, child support or taxes.

Stopping debt collector calls

You have the right to request, in writing, that a debt collector stop contacting you. To submit this request, write a letter to the collector and send the letter via certified mail. Certified mail provides proof of mailing and proof that it was received.

Once the collector receives the letter, the collector may not contact you again, except to say that there will be no further contact or to notify you that the debt collector or creditor intends to take some specific action.

Please note, however, that sending this letter does not change the fact that you may owe the debt. You still could be sued by the debt collector or the original creditor.


Learn more about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act — Federal Trade Commission

File a consumer complaint — Ohio Attorney General's Office

Request a free Consumer Awareness Workshop — Ohio Attorney General's Office

Sign up to receive the Consumer Advocate e-newsletter — Ohio Attorney General's Office