Know Your Rights

The Cease and Desist Letter - Done Right

Often times a consumer will contact us and claim that they sent notice to a debt collector to "cease and desist" but the collector continues to contact them.   Surely our knee jerk reaction is to think that there is a clear violation of 15 U.S.C. 1692c(c).  According to this section, if a consumer advises a debt collector in writing to cease and desist all communications, or that the consumer refuses to pay the debt, then the collector must cease all communications with the consumer except for a few limited purposes - to advise that the creditor intends to invoke a specific remedy or to advise the consumer that the collector has closed the account.  Naturally, we want to see the letter that the consumer wrote to the collector, supposedly advising it to cease and desist communications. 

Often times when we see the consumers' letters, we find that the cease and desist was actually done incorrectly, and therefore may be ineffective.  The common mistake that consumers make is that instead of advising the collector to "cease and desist all communications," they advise to "cease and desist all phone calls."  The consumer's letter may even go on to invite the collector to use regular mail only as a means of communication.   The problem is, this second letter is not proper under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act language.  The statute specifically states that if the consumer advises the collector in writing to "cease and desist all communication" the collector is to heed that warning and stop all communications.  The statute does not state that the consumer can advise the collector in writing to cease only phone calls and only write letters.  The FDCPA does allow a consumer to control the time of day or even the days that the collector can all (see 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a)(1), but nowhere in the statute does it provide that the consumer can prescribe the method of communication.  It only provides that the consumer can cease all communications.

It seems very technical and not in line with what consumers are really looking for.  In most circumstances, what the consumer wants is for the calls to stop.  The reasons for this are obvious.  The calls can be embarrassing and intimidating.  As such, a consumer who is willing to put in writing that calls are not welcome, but does not want all means of communication need to be cut off, should get that benefit.  Many people do want to try to find ways to pay their debts, yet are not able to confidently communicate with the collector and negotiate a fair payment arrangement.  Still, the FDCPA is written as it is, and courts analyze each case by reading the language of the statute and giving each word its full and correct meaning.  The courts cannot read into a statute and determine how things should be. 

Therefore, when dealing with a collector that you want to have stop calling you, make the decision whether you want to cease all communication.  If you want the calls to stop, make sure your letter specifically advises to cease all communication.  For a sample letter, visit our webpage.


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