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Debt Collection Laws in Pennsylvania

Dena Standley | September 25, 2023

Dena Standley
Legal Expert, Paralegal
Dena Standley, BA

Dena Standley is a seasoned paralegal with more than 20 years of experience in legal research and writing, having received a certification as a Legal Assistant/Paralegal from Southern Technical College.

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: You have rights and legal protections under both federal law and Pennsylvania law when it comes to engaging with debt collectors. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Pennsylvania’s Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act prevent debt collectors from using abusive, aggressive, and dishonest means to collect debts.

Dealing with pushy and unfair debt collectors is really stressful. Getting endless calls, scary letters, and other wrong collection tactics can be really frustrating and upsetting. Talking to a debt collector might feel scary, but remember, you have specific legal rights. Pennsylvania debt collection laws, and other federal laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, are there to protect you.

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The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects Pennsylvania consumers

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a landmark federal law setting guidelines and proverbial “rules of the road” for debt collection agents and agencies. Here are some debt collection rules outlined by the FDCPA:

  • Debt collectors cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Debt collectors cannot call you at work when your employer prohibits such communication.
  • Debt collectors cannot tell your family or friends that you owe a debt.
  • Debt collectors cannot continue to contact you when you have explicitly asked them not to.
  • Debt collectors cannot take actions considered harassment or abuse under the FDCPA.
  • Debt collectors cannot claim they will sell your debt in order to coerce you to pay.
  • Debt collectors cannot cause your phone to ring repeatedly with the intent to annoy.
  • Debt collectors cannot fail to disclose that they are a debt collector.
  • Debt collectors cannot make false claims about who they are.
  • Debt collectors cannot threaten to seize your house or other property.
  • Debt collectors cannot threaten to take legal action that they cannot, or do not plan to, take.
  • Debt collectors must disclose who they are any time they contact a consumer for collection purposes.

These are some of the highlights of the FDCPA, but keep in mind that there are more rules and regulations outlined in the act. For more information, check out our guide on FDCPA Violations List.

If you possess sufficient evidence that a debt collector utilized improper collection techniques or tactics that violated the FDCPA, you could have grounds to seek monetary damages through an FDCPA civil action. Individuals have the legal right to pursue up to $1,000 in damages from debt collectors who have violated the FDCPA.

If you believe a debt collector has used unfair methods to get you to pay off a debt in Pennsylvania, file a complaint or report with the FTC, CFPB, BBB, and Pennsylvania’s attorney general.

Along with federal protections, there are specific state laws providing a level of legal protections and statutory rights to individuals being pursued by a debt collector, namely the Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act.

Pennsylvania’s Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act can also protect you

Residents of the Quaker State are afforded legal protections during the debt collection process under the Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (“FCEUA”), 73 P.S. § 2270.1 et seq. Pursuant to the FCEUA, a Pennsylvania resident owing a debt is considered to be a “consumer.”

The FCEUA generally applies to creditors and the collection of specific types of debt. The state law sets forth what is considered to be a “deceptive act” or “deceptive practice” in the context of a debt collection agent or agency pursuing reimbursement from a Pennsylvania consumer.

The Pennsylvania law shares many similarities to the FDCPA and even incorporates, by reference, the statutory protections afforded to consumers under the FDCPA. While the FCEUA applies primarily to persons or businesses collecting their own debts, the federal law applies mainly to those individuals or businesses who collect debts for others.

According to the FCEUA, a debt collector is prohibited from using false, deceptive or misleading representations when attempting to collect on a debt from a consumer in Pennsylvania. Here are some examples of what would be considered false, deceptive, or misleading representations:

  • falsely representing the character or amount of the debt being pursued;
  • falsely implying that the debt collector is an attorney;
  • representing that nonpayment will result in arrest or imprisonment;
  • threatening to take any action that cannot be legally taken; and
  • falsely representing that a sale, referral or transfer of any interest in the debt will cause the Consumer to lose any claim or defense he or she may have;

In addition, a creditor is prohibited from using unfair or unconscionable means to collect a debt in Pennsylvania. According to the FCEUA, the following actions are considered to be unconscionable and therefore against the law:

  • collection of any amount not agreed to by the agreement creating the debt or authorized by law;
  • acceptance of a post-dated check unless the Creditor provides notice to the Consumer not more than ten nor less than three days prior to depositing such check;
  • depositing or threatening to deposit a post-dated check prior to the date on the check;
  • charging any person for communications by concealing the purpose of the communication (for example, collect telephone calls);
  • taking or threatening any non-judicial action to dispossess or disable property if there is not a right to possession of the property
  • communicating with a Consumer regarding a debt via postcard; and
  • using any language or symbol, other than the Creditor’s address on any envelope when communicating with a Consumer by mail.

If you have evidence that a debt collector violated a provision of the FCEUA, then such a violation would also constitute a violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. This could lead to the debt collector being subjected to monetary sanctions, treble damages and the debt collector being on the hook for your attorneys’ fees.

The statute of limitations on debt in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's statute of limitations on debt is four years for unsecured loans, oral contracts, open-end accounts, revolving credit, promissory notes, and written contracts such as credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, etc.

The statute of limitations commences on the date you failed to make a payment by the due date.

For this reason, the creditor has up to four years from the date you defaulted or breached the contract to file a collection suit against you.

The statute of limitations can serve as an effective affirmative defense to challenge the validity and viability of a debt collection lawsuit. As a result, prior to even contemplating a debt repayment plan, negotiations with the creditor, or filing for bankruptcy, it is critically important to know how the statute of limitations can protect you and what limitations period applies to your debt.

The table below further illustrates the Pennsylvania statute of limitations on different types of debt:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Pennsylvania

Debt Type Deadline
Credit card 4 years
Medical 4 years
Student loan 4 years
Auto loan 4 years
Personal loan 4 years
Mortgage 4 years
Judgment 4 years
Source: 42 Pa. C.S. § 5525

Actions that can reset the statute of limitations on debt in Pennsylvania

The intent of the statute of limitations is to protect consumers from being sued by creditors for a time-barred debt. It is also intended to help the courts avoid having to address frivolously-filed lawsuits by large debt collection companies.

Nevertheless, there are specific circumstances where a consumer may, even unknowingly, reset the applicable statute of limitations on a debt thereby enabling a debt collector to file a collection suit against them. Here are examples of the types of actions that can restart the statute of limitations:

  • Making a voluntary payment for even a nominal amount. Some debt collection agents and agencies may try to convince you into making a nominal payment as a “sign of good faith” or “act of goodwill.” Do not fall into this trap. Even a partial payment will restart the statute of limitations thereby providing the creditor or debt collector more time to collect the debt or file a collection suit against you.

  • Agreeing to a repayment plan. If a creditor or debt collector presents a settlement offer or promise to clear the debt if you agree to make a partial payment, do not make the mistake of signing any type of agreement. Why? Because if you agree to a repayment plan, the statute of limitations restarts and applies to the full balance owed.

  • Acknowledging you owe the debt. If a creditor contacts you about an old debt, do not make the mistake of acknowledging any ownership over the debt. This is important because a debt collector may try to get you to say or write something that evinces your responsibility for the debt. This simple act of acknowledging the debt, and your responsibility for said debt, could be enough to automatically reset the clock on old debt. For this reason, it might be advisable to avoid speaking with debt collectors about an old debt and consult an attorney or SoloSuit for assistance.

Key Takeaways

If you reside in Pennsylvania and are being hounded by a debt collector, do not give up hope. You have legal rights and protections under both federal law and state law. Here are some key takeaways on Pennsylvania debt collection laws.

  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) sets federal guidelines protecting consumers from improper collection tactics, restricting the timing and nature of contact from debt collectors, and prohibiting harassment, false representation, and threats.
  • Pennsylvania’s Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (FCEUA) offers additional protections, echoing many FDCPA provisions and considering false, deceptive, or misleading representations and unfair or unconscionable means to collect a debt as violations, potentially leading to monetary sanctions and treble damages.
  • Consumers can seek up to $1,000 in damages from debt collectors who violate the FDCPA, and they should report unfair collection methods to the FTC, CFPB, BBB, and Pennsylvania’s attorney general.
  • Pennsylvania's statute of limitations on debt is four years; this period starts from the date a payment is missed. Specific actions, such as making a voluntary payment, agreeing to a repayment plan, or acknowledging the debt, can reset this statute of limitations.

Before engaging in debt repayment plans or bankruptcy, individuals should understand their rights under debt collection laws, consult legal counsel or SoloSuit resources, and be wary of unintentionally resetting the statute of limitations through acknowledgment or partial payments.

Settle your debt in Pennsylvania

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 Pennsylvania, 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.

To learn more about how to settle a debt in Pennsylvania, 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 Pennsylvania

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