Failing to pay your credit cards can quickly wreak havoc on your finances and credit score. If you're struggling to keep up with your credit card bills, however, Mississippi has a wide variety of consumer protection laws in place that govern when and how you can be pursued for credit card debt, how credit card debt is reported, and how you can fight back against unfair debt collection practices.
It's illegal in Mississippi and throughout the United States to imprison people because they owe money. However, your credit card company, or the debt collector who purchases your debt, can sue you for the balance, late fees, interest, attorney's fees and court costs. You have to be properly served with the lawsuit by a process server or the sheriff. It's not sufficient to notify you over the phone or threaten to sue. If a lawsuit is filed and you don't receive notice, you can have the lawsuit dismissed.
Statute of Limitations
Mississippi curtails the ability of creditors to sue for old debts by establishing a three-year statute of limitations. After three years has passed, you can't be sued for payment. If you make a payment on the debt after three years, however, the statute restarts from the date of the last payment, potentially enabling the creditor to sue you. While debt collectors can continue to call you even after your debt reaches the statute of limitations, you can request in writing that the calls stop. If the debt collector continues to call, you can sue for injunctive relief to stop the calls, as well as a judgment decreeing that the debt is past the statute of limitations.
Fair Debt Collection
Mississippi follows the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which limits the tactics creditors and debt collection agencies can use to recover your debt. You have the right to request verification that you actually owe the debt. Creditors cannot call you multiple times in a day with the intent of harassing you. They also can't make idle threats or threaten to sue you if they don't actually intend to do so, and can't use abusive or threatening language. In addition, they cannot reveal your private information to a third party. If a creditor violates the FDCPA, you can sue the creditor for injunctive relief, attorney's fees, court costs and damages. In some cases, you might also be able to obtain punitive damages, particularly if the collector has a history of violating the FDCPA or you enter a class-action suit.
Taking Your Property
It's illegal for creditors and debt collection firms to repossess the items you've purchased with your credit cards. They can, however, garnish your wages if they obtain a judgment against you in court. Mississippi requires a 30-day waiting period prior to garnishing your wages after receiving a garnishment order. Additionally, creditors can only take the lesser of 25 percent of your disposable earnings or the amount of your weekly earnings that exceed 30 times the minimum wage.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.