Creditors and debt collectors in Arizona generally have a six-year time window in which they may sue debtors for nonpayment of credit card debt. The federal government is making moves to stop collection agencies from engaging in creditor harassment and pursuing lawsuits against debtors after this statute of limitations has expired.
The Federal Trade Commission recently reached an agreement with one of the nation's largest consumer-debt collectors to settle a lawsuit that alleged the collector was deceiving consumers in order to collect old debts.
The FTC accused the collection firm, among other things, of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act by not telling consumers that their debts were too old to be legally enforced. Additionally, the FTC held that the company failed to disclose to consumers that if they made a payment on an old debt, it may set the clock back on the statute of limitations.
A debt collector may not sue a consumer to collect debt after it has been time-barred; if such a suit occurs, the defendant may move to have the suit dismissed in court. But, some consumers do not know that most debt has a statute of limitations attached to it, and if they unknowingly make a payment on a time-barred debt, in some states this will reset the statute of limitations.
In addition to issues involved with time-barred debts, the FTC accused the collection company of not having sufficient documentation on the debts that it was collecting and of giving less than accurate information to credit reporting agencies.
Debt collectors pay pennies on the dollar to buy defaulted debt from another party, and then the debt collector goes after the money owed. When this transaction between the original party and the debt collector occurs, records about the actual debt are often not very well transferred. This may mean that the debt collector does not always have enough proof about what is owed or who owes it.
The FTC plans to issue a report later this year about these issues within the collections industry.
Because of these problems with time-barred debt, those in Arizona who are dealing with creditor harassment or wage garnishment in relation to old debts may want to talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney about their rights.
Source: Washington Post, "Have old debts? Read up on your rights," Michelle Singletary, Jan. 31, 2012
Source: Creditcards.com, "State statutes of limitation for credit card debt," Connie Prater, Dec. 12, 2011