Patrick Austin, J.D. | August 08, 2023
Edited by Hannah Locklear
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.
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:
In addition, pursuant to Massachusetts law, the only individuals and entities eligible to engage in debt collection include the following:
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 (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:
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).
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.
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.
|Credit Card||6 years|
|Oral contract||6 years|
|Written contract||6 years|
|Open account||6 years|
|Promissory note||20 years|
|Contract under seal||20 years|
|Source: Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260 § 1, 2, and 20|
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
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:
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.
SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.
You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.
SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.
Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? Were making guides on how to beat each one.
You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now are are just look for support, we're here for you.
Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.
Out Debt Validation Letter is the best way to respond to a collection letter. Many debt collectors will simply give up after receiving it.
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