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Debt Collection Laws in Massachusetts

Patrick Austin, J.D. | August 08, 2023

Patrick Austin
Attorney from George Mason
Patrick Austin, JD

Patrick Austin is a licensed attorney with a background in data privacy and information security law. Patrick received his law degree at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School, where he served as the Editor-in-Chief for the National Security Law Journal.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: When debt collectors come knocking, Massachusetts state laws and federal laws protect you If you find yourself being pursued by such a debt collection agent or agency, there are legal protections under both Massachusetts law and federal law designed to protect you while engaging with a debt collector about a delinquent account.

Dealing with constant calls, threats in the mail, and intimidation from a shady debt collector is really terrible. Massachusetts residents and others shouldn't despair though. State and federal laws offer protection and rules when dealing with debt collectors.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of debt collection laws in Massachusetts, including laws pertaining to the statute of limitations.

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Massachusetts debt collection were created with the consumer in mind

Under Massachusetts law, specifically Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93 § 49, debt collectors are not allowed to communicate with consumers in such a manner as to “harass or embarrass the alleged debtor.” The statute lists specific actions deemed to be improper and a violation of Massachusetts law:

  • Communicating with a consumer at an unreasonable hour;
  • Attempting to communicate with a consumer at an unreasonable frequency; and
  • Using threats of violence, offensive language, or making threats to take some action which the creditor doesn't take in the usual course of business.

In addition, pursuant to Massachusetts law, the only individuals and entities eligible to engage in debt collection include the following:

  • Creditor(s) - This is the individual or entity that is actually owed the money. If a consumer borrows money from credit unions or banks, they become your creditors. Creditors typically do not need a license to collect a debt owed, but they must follow the Massachusetts laws and regulations.
  • Debt Collector(s): These are third-party agencies specializing in debt collection on behalf of creditors. They typically do not have direct rights over the debt owed. As a result, a debt collector is obligated, pursuant to state law, to apply for - and obtain - a license through the Division of Banks in order to lawfully collect a debt in Massachusetts.
  • Debt Purchaser(s): These are collection agencies that specialize in the acquisition of delinquent debts from creditors attempting to collect a debt. Debt purchasers typically utilize attorneys or debt collectors to collect because they do not engage directly with consumers. Since debt purchasers legally own the debt, or debts, they do not require state licensure to collect them. However, debt purchasers are obligated to adhere to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (more on this below) and debt collection regulations stipulated by the Attorney General's Office.
  • Lawyer(s): Lawyers are responsible for the actual collection of the debt on behalf of creditors, rather than the debt collector. The attorneys typically do not have actual rights to the debt being collected, but possess the licensure necessary to practice debt collection in Massachusetts. Lawyers engaged in debt collection practices are obligated to adhere to the Supreme Judicial Court's Rules of Professional Conduct, the Attorney General's Debt Collection Regulations, and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) restrictions when practicing debt collection.

In contrast to federal law, the Massachusetts debt collection laws described above apply to all types of debt collectors, including creditors, debt buyers, and third-party collection agencies. Violating any other regulations would be considered a violation of the Massachusetts General laws of Chapter 93.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects all US residents from unfair debt collectors

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law governing the practices of debt collectors. In addition, the FDCA provides consumers with notable legal protections against certain predatory and harassing practices, including:

  • Calling you at home before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Using abusive, inappropriate and harassing language during discussions.
  • Pursuing a consumer for a debt they do not actually owe.
  • Pretending to be associated with a law enforcement or government agency.
  • Misrepresenting who they are or any details of the debt in question.

The FDCPA also states that debt collectors are prohibited from using any misleading or deceptive representation in their effort to collect on a debt. In addition, the FDCPA requires debt collectors to substantiate that you actually owe the debt being pursued. For example, you can demand a debt collector issue a debt validation letter confirming you actually owe the debt.

Another consumer-oriented aspect of the FDCPA is the opportunity to claim monetary compensation from a debt collector who violated it. If you can provide evidence of such a violation in court, you might be eligible to request damages. The FDCPA includes a provision allowing consumers to seek up to $1,000 in damages from debt collectors found to have breached the federal law. Importantly, to secure the $1,000 compensation, you only need to demonstrate the collector's violation of the FDCPA; proving actual harm is not necessary.

In addition to potentially recovering monetary damages, a court has the authority to order a debt collector who violated the FDCPA to halt certain collection activities. This is known as "injunctive relief." For example, a court has the authority to require that the debt collector deemed to have violated the FDCPA to cease all communications with you (both phone calls and letters).

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Debt Collection Rule grants additional protections

In addition to the consumer protections contained in state law and the federal FDCPA, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently issued a “Debt Collection Rule” in 2021 that clarifies how debt collectors can communicate and engage with consumers when attempting to collect on a delinquent account.

For example, pursuant to the CFPB’s Debt Collection Rule, a debt collector is prohibited from calling a consumer more than seven times within a seven-day period, or seven days after initially engaging in a phone conversation with a consumer concerning a delinquent account.

In addition, debt collectors are obligated to follow specific rules and guidelines if, or when, they contact a consumer via a social media platform. For example, debt collectors must keep social media messages private and not viewable by the general public or by your friends, contacts, or followers on any particular social media platform.

In addition, a debt collector must affirmatively identify themselves as a debt collector when engaging a consumer on a social media site. Basically, this means if a debt collector attempts to send a consumer a private message requesting to be added as a friend or contact, the debt collector must identify themself as being affiliated with a debt collection agency and/or their role as a debt collector.

Another requirement contained in the CFPB’s Debt Collection Rule is that debt collectors must provide consumers an option for opting out of further communications. Basically, a debt collector must provide a consumer, in each social media message, a way to opt out of receiving further communications from the debt collector via social media.

The Massachusetts statute of limitations on debt prevents old debt lawsuits

Pursuant to Massachusetts state law, specifically Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 260 §1 and §2, the statute of limitations for consumer-related debt is six years. So, in effect, the statute of limitations for credit card debt, oral contracts, and written contracts is six years.

This means if a debt collector attempts to file a lawsuit against a Massachusetts resident who hasn’t made a payment on a delinquent account in six years or longer, there is a good chance the debt collector will be time-barred from moving forward with the lawsuit.

The table below further illustrates the statute of limitations on different types of debt in Massachusetts.

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Massachusetts

Debt Type Deadline
Credit Card 6 years
Oral contract 6 years
Written contract 6 years
Mortgage 6 years
Open account 6 years
Promissory note 20 years
Contract under seal 20 years
Judgment 20 years
Source: Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260 § 1, 2, and 20

Resolve your debt lawsuit in Massachusetts

Debt collectors and creditors have the right to take legal action if you refuse to communicate with them about your debt. However, that doesn’t mean that all debt lawsuits have merit. Luckily, SoloSuit was created with this in mind.

SoloSuit can help you respond to a debt lawsuit in Massachusetts, stand up for your rights, and buy yourself time to work out a debt settlement plan. The surest way to get debt collectors off your back is by paying what you owe. And if you go about this wisely, you can usually settle your debt for less than you originally owed.

In a debt settlement, you offer your creditor a portion of the total amount due, usually at least 60% of the debt’s value. In exchange for a lump-sum payment, the creditor agrees to drop its legal claims against you and release you from the remaining balance.

If you decide to settle your obligation, you’ll want to ensure you get the terms of your agreement in writing and pay the creditor before your court date. If you’ve never tried debt settlement before, consider working with a professional organization that will guide you through the process.

To learn more about how to settle a debt in Massachusetts, check out this video:

SoloSettle, powered by SoloSuit, is a tech-based approach to debt settlement. Our software helps you send and receive settlement offers until you reach an agreement with the collector. Once an agreement is reached, we’ll help you manage the settlement documentation and transfer your payment to the creditor or debt collector, helping you keep your financial information private and secure.

Read also: How to Settle a Debt in Massachusetts

Key takeaways

Debt collection laws in Massachusetts afford residents with statutory protections and rights to help even the playing field between everyday consumers and large debt collection companies. Here are some key takeaways on this article on debt collection laws in Massachusetts:

  • Dealing with aggressive debt collectors is distressing, but state and federal laws provide protections.
  • Massachusetts law prevents debt collectors from harassing consumers, listing specific guidelines to regulate debt collection practices in the state.
  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) safeguards US residents from unfair collector practices, most notably harassment and misrepresentation.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Debt Collection Rule adds further consumer safeguards, specifically in regards to when, how, and through what means a debt collector can communicate with you.
  • Massachusetts has a six-year statute of limitations on consumer debt lawsuits.
  • SoloSuit offers help for responding to debt lawsuits and debt settlement in Massachusetts.

If you’ve been sued for a debt in Massachusetts, respond to the case with SoloSuit’s Debt Answer form and increase your chances of winning.

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