Debt collection laws in Georgia

Here are your rights in Georgia if debt collectors come knocking

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When you let credit card payments, loan payments and other bills go unpaid for long enough, debt collectors eventually come knocking or start spamming your phone. This usually happens when the original creditor writes off unpaid debt and sells it to a collections agency, which means the debt collector is now on a mission to get paid and recoup their funds. However, some creditors also hire debt collectors to go after unpaid debts on their behalf, so the debt collector may actually work for the company you owe.

Either way, residents of Georgia have legal protections when it comes to limiting harassment and oppressive collection activities that some debt collectors may try.


Key insights

  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers from harassment, threats and other abusive debt collection practices on a federal level.
  • A few state-based laws protect Georgia residents from certain harmful debt collection practices, including the Georgia Installment Loan Act and the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act.
  • If you believe your rights are being violated, you have the right to sue debt collectors under the FDCPA. You can also file a formal complaint with the Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.

Federal debt collection laws

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal debt collection law that affords all Americans certain rights when unpaid debts are being pursued by bill collectors.

This act prohibits debt collectors from using deceptive or abusive debt collection practices, such as contacting you at odd hours, calling you repeatedly or making false threats regarding legal actions they plan to take. Debt collectors are also barred from revealing the existence of unpaid debts to other parties, both on social media and through direct forms of communication.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the FDCPA requires debt collectors to contact your attorney instead of reaching out to you personally if you have legal representation already in place.

Also, note that the FDCPA lets you stop all contact from debt collectors by informing them in writing that you do not want to receive communications any longer. If the debt collector continues its communications, you can sue them under the FDCPA and receive coverage of your legal fees as well as damages.

» MORE: How to handle bill collectors

Georgia debt collection laws

The state of Georgia mostly leans on protections offered through the FDCPA to protect consumers from abusive debt collection practices, such as contacting you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. without permission or making contact after you have requested for them to stop in writing.

Specific debt collection laws in the state of Georgia help protect consumers when it comes to certain types of financial products. This includes the Georgia Installment Loan Act, which applies to many installment loans that are $3,000 or less with a repayment term of up to 36 months and 15 days. This debt collection law prohibits the following:

  • Causing physical injury or harm to you or any of your family members
  • Willfully trespassing on your home or personal property without legal permission
  • Taking steps to publicly ridicule you for the purpose of coercing you into repaying the debt
  • Calling or visiting during unreasonable hours, and specifically between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The Georgia Fair Business Practices Act (GFBPA) also aims to protect consumers from unscrupulous debt collectors. For example, this act offers Georgia residents legal protections if a debt collector makes false or misleading statements about their own business or another business. This act is enforced by the Georgia attorney general.

Statute of limitations

Debt collectors in the state of Georgia only have a limited amount of time to attempt to collect on a debt through the court system before they lose their legal rights to do so. This timeline is referred to as the statute of limitations for debt collection, which can vary from state to state.

In Georgia, the statute of limitations for credit card debt is six years, so bill collectors can only sue you for unpaid credit card bills for up to six years from your first missed payment. This doesn't mean they cannot try to collect on the debt for any longer than that, however. The statute of limitations only means they can no longer take you to court.

Written contracts in Georgia come with the same six-year statute of limitations, while oral contracts and promissory notes have a four-year statute of limitations in the state.

Debt collection practices

Thanks to the FDCPA and other debt collection laws that apply in Georgia, debt collectors are prohibited from using a wide range of practices to collect on debts. Debt collection methods that are banned include (but are not limited to):

  • Using or threatening to use violence or criminal means to harm you or your property
  • Using obscene or profane language in communications
  • Making unpaid debts known to third parties
  • Publicly advertising unpaid debts for sale
  • Making harassing phone calls
  • Calling you without disclosing their identity
  • Making false statements to mislead debtors
  • Using a false company or creditor name
  • Implying the communication is from anyone other than a debt collector
  • Misrepresenting how much debt you owe
  • Pretending to be a government representative
  • Threatening you with jail time if you don't pay the debt
  • Pretending to work for one of the credit bureaus
  • Pretending that attorneys are involved in the debt collection process
  • Sending documents that appear to come from a government agency
  • Using unfair practices like trying to collect more than the amount owed
  • Calling you during unreasonable hours, or before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Attempting to garnish your wages without a court order

Enforcement and penalties

According to the Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, you can file a formal complaint against a debt collector if you feel they have violated your rights. You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is the federal agency that enforces the FDCPA. You can contact the FTC online at www.ftc.gov.

Under the FDCPA, you also have the right to sue a debt collector in state or federal court if they violated legal protections afforded to you under federal law. If you win the case, the debt collector may be required to pay your damages based on financial losses you suffered, plus up to $1,000. The debt collector may also be required to pay attorney fees and court costs.

» MORE: How to get out of debt

Examples of debt collection violations in Georgia

According to the FTC, a federal court forced an Atlanta-based debt collector called Critical Resolution Mediation LLC to close its doors in 2020 based on a complaint that its debt collectors were threatening consumers with arrest and trying to collect on debts that people didn't even owe.

The FTC complaint also alleged that the debt collector participated in other unlawful practices like posing as law enforcement officers and attorneys, threatening to revoke debtors' driver’s licenses and threatening to damage their credit scores.

» MORE: What affects your credit score?

Could your debt be reduced or forgiven? Take our financial relief quiz.

    FAQ

    What state laws protect people in Georgia from unfair and deceptive practices?

    Several laws protect consumers in Georgia from unfair and deceptive debt collection practices, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Georgia Installment Loan Act and the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act.

    Can you get sued for not paying debts in Georgia?

    Consumers can be sued for unpaid debts in Georgia, but only until the statute of limitations is up for each type of debt. This time limit is six years for credit card debt and written contracts in the state. Oral contracts and promissory notes have a four-year statute of limitations in the state.

    Bottom line

    Having unpaid debts can make life complicated, and the problems become even worse when debt collectors start calling.

    That said, you do have legal rights and protections, including the right to tell debt collectors to stop contacting you altogether. This won't stop you from owing the debt or damaging your credit score, but it can give you a break so you can figure out your next best steps, such as speaking with a nonprofit credit counselor.


    Article sources
    ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
    1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "What is a debt collector and why are they contacting me?." Accessed Nov. 13, 2023.
    2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "What laws limit what debt collectors can say or do?." Accessed Nov. 13, 2023.
    3. Federal Trade Commission, "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act." Accessed Nov. 13, 2023.
    4. Federal Trade Commission, "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act." Accessed Nov. 13, 2023.
    5. NOLO, "Georgia Fair Debt Collection Laws." Accessed Nov. 14, 2023.
    6. Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, "Statutes We Enforce." Accessed Nov. 14, 2023.
    7. Bournakis & Mitchell, "Statute of Limitations on Debt in Georgia: How Much Time Do Creditors Have to Sue?" Accessed Nov. 14, 2023.
    8. Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, "Debt Collectors: What They Can and Cannot Do." Accessed Nov. 14, 2023.
    9. Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, "Debt Collectors." Accessed Nov. 14, 2023.
    10. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "What information does a debt collector have to give me about a debt they’re trying to collect from me?." Accessed Nov. 13, 2023.
    11. Federal Trade Commission, "FTC Acts to Shut Down Unlawful Debt Collection Operation." Accessed Nov. 14, 2023.
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