Everyone knows about the problem with bill collectors—they regularly harass people who owe money, and they can make their lives very difficult. Owing money is stressful enough, and consumers do have some legal protectors against bill collectors.
But bill collectors regularly overstep their bounds, calling people who owe money dozens of time per week, disguising their numbers or identities, and refusing to acknowledge if they are represented by an attorney or not.
When debt collectors overstep these bounds, they can make it difficult for people to pay back their debts, and the added stress can decrease their work performance and quality of life.
While debt collection is an issue everywhere in the country, it is particularly dire in West Virginia. In late March of 2015, the state’s governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, signed SB 542 into law.
SB 542 deals directly with debt collection—the legislation is even called the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act. The measure passed with wide support among the legislature, as the vote went 61 for and 34 opposed.
Debt collectors have new limits placed on their practices under the law. They now must disclose their identity, and they cannot call with the intent to “annoy, harass, or threaten” the person that they are calling.
Debt collectors also cannot make any more than 30 calls to a person per week. While the new legislation added some consumer protections, it was also backed by a Republican legislature that worked with business officials on the language of the law.
The law is still pro-business in many respects, including doubling the amount that creditors can charge consumers on a delinquent account.
If a debt collector violates the law, consumers may only collect $1,000 per violation, and the amount collected in damages cannot exceed $175,000 or the total amount of the debt that is owed.
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