The Illinois Collection Agency Act, the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the federal Fair Debt Collection Act prohibit certain behavior by debt collectors, impose disclosure requirements and limit fees that may be charged. Debtors are still responsible for payment of their debts, but these acts prevent abusive or predatory treatment. Illinois debt collection laws also protect consumers from false reports of debt on credit histories by providing consumer-friendly dispute procedures.
Collection Agency Licensing Requirements
In a statement of public policy, the Illinois General Assembly holds that collection agencies affect the health, safety and public welfare of Illinois citizens and must adhere to strict licensing requirements. In order to ensure that only qualified entities are practicing collection services in the state, agencies must submit an application detailing all employees, shareholders and directors involved in the business. A $25,000 surety bond is required at the time of application and each agency must maintain a trust account with a bank or depository institution.
Debt collectors are not permitted to make false or exaggerated representations about the status of an account. For example, the law prohibits falsely representing to a debtor that his failure to pay will result in criminal prosecution or jail time. In addition, debt collectors cannot tell a debtor that a lien will be placed against his person or property as a result of failure to pay without also explaining that procuring a lien involves an official judicial proceeding. Debt collectors are also required to fully disclose the full legal name of the collection agency and cannot falsely represent themselves as attorneys or as persons authorized to act act on behalf of the state or federal governments.
One of the preeminent reasons behind enacting debt collection laws is to prevent abusive debt collection tactics. Illinois laws expressly prohibit the use of profane language or threats against the debtor or his family during the course of the collection process. Collectors cannot engage in harassing behavior, including calling incessantly, calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., or calling at a time and place the collector knows will be inconvenient to the debtor. Collectors cannot engage in conduct that causes mental or physical illness to the debtor or his family and cannot misrepresent the amount of the debt owed.
Communication with Employer
Debt collectors are permitted to speak with a debtor's employer on a limited basis. Communication with the employer is only appropriate after the account has been in default for at least 30 days. The collection agency must provide written notice that it intends to contact the employer and must wait five days after sending the notice to actually do so. Collectors are not permitted to harass or abuse debtors or their' co-workers.
If a debtor disputes the bill, he must send a letter to the collection agency stating that he does not owe the debt. After receiving the letter, the collection agency cannot contact the debtor for 30 days. The debtor must then collect information or evidence -- such as a police report detailing identity theft -- to prove the debt is not his. The collection agency will do the same in an attempt to prove the debt actually belongs to the debtor. If the debtor cannot prove he does not owe the debt after the 30-day period, the collection agency may resume contact in accordance with collection agency rules.
Stephanie Reid has been writing professionally since 2007, with work published in the Virginia Bar Association's "Family Law Quarterly" and the "Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy." She received her Juris Doctor from Regent University and her Bachelor of Arts in French and child development from Florida State University. Reid is admitted to practice law in Delaware and Maryland.