Debt collection laws and regulations in Massachusetts
The state of Massachusetts has laws and regulations in place that prohibit many unfair debt collection practices by creditors and third party debt collectors. The primary Debt Collection Regulation, 940 C.M.R. 7.00, when combined with the regulations of the Massachusetts Division of Banks, 209 CMR 18.00, have many consumer protections built into place, and provide consumers with the ability to stop unfair practices.
Regulations and laws for creditors and debt collection agencies
There are many rules that need to be followed. If they are not, consumers can take legal action against the creditors and debt collection agencies to get them to stop. The Massachusetts debt collection laws and rules include the items noted below. A creditor can’t do the following:
- They can’t contact you without identifying both the name of the person calling as well as who the creditor is. While the caller may use a name other than his or her own name, the debt collection agency or creditor on whose behalf the call is being made must be able to identify that person as an employee.
- A debt collector can’t call you at home more than twice for each bill or debt you owe in any seven-day period. In addition, they can’t contact you more than twice for each debt in any 30-day period at some place other than your home, such as calling you at your place of work.
- Call you at your place of employment if you have requested that they not call you at work. However, note that per Massachusetts regulations your oral request that a creditor or debt collector not call you at work is valid for 10 days only. Be sure to put it in writing, as written requests are valid until you write to the collector removing the restriction.
- They can’t contact you directly, if you have told the collection agency or creditor you are represented by an attorney and that they should contact the lawyer.
- Use profane, cursing, or obscene language when contacting you.
- Cause expense to you in the form of express mail charges, long distance telephone calls, wire fees, or other similar charges or fees.
- A creditor or collector can’t falsely threaten to take legal action that the creditor does not truly intend to take or reasonably intend to take.
- They can’t share the information. They can’t tell anyone (including your neighbors, friends, relatives, or employers) about your unpaid bills or debts, without your prior written consent.
- Per Massachusetts law, they can’t mail to you any written or printed materials that reveal or imply that you owe anyone a debt. As an example, they can’t send mail by using a postcard to contact you or using a descriptive return address, as that is an public form of communication.
- Solicit postdated checks from you.
- If the bill is for a medical debt, Massachusetts has additional laws and rules around stopping medical debt collectors.
- Debt collectors can’t visit your home at times other than your normal waking hours. They can’t stop by after hours. A creditor or collector also can’t visit you more than once in any 30-day period for each debt or bill that is owed, unless you give permission for additional visits.
- Call you after hours. They can only call at times that are your normal waking hours. If your waking hours are unknown, then the collector may only call between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
- If you work with a debt settlement company, these organizations can also deal directly with any collectors per state law. Learn more of the pros of debt settlement.
Additional Massachusetts Rights
The state has put into place some other laws and regulations to help consumers. A debt collector or creditor must allow you or your lawyer to inspect any document, bill, or statement on which the creditor is relying to prove that you owe the debt that is being collected on. For example, a credit card application, ledger, account statement, promissory note, unpaid bill, account card, or similar record in the creditor’s possession. The document needs to reflect both the date and amount of payments, credits and charges related to the debt. Failure of the creditor to do this is an unfair or deceptive act or practice under the Attorney General’s Debt Collection Regulations.
Under both Massachusetts and Federal Government Law, if you want all debt collection contact to stop, and it is a debt collection agency (as opposed to the creditor that you owe the bill to itself) that is contacting you, you have the right to make a request in writing that all such contact stop. This is per laws (15 U.S.C. 1692c(c), 209 CMR 18.14(3)). After you have made such a request, and it needs to be in writing, the debt collection agency needs to stop contacting you. They may not contact you again; however, the agency still has the right be to sue you to try and collect the debt or bill.