Debt collection laws in Ohio

Here are your rights in Ohio if debt collectors come knocking

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If you live in Ohio and debt collectors have been tracking you down, several different laws can help protect you. This includes a sweeping federal law that dictates what bill collectors can and cannot do on a national level. From there, state law in Ohio gives you even more rights when it comes to protecting your privacy and peace of mind.

The key to keeping unscrupulous debt collectors at bay is knowing what your legal rights truly are, as well as what debt collectors are prohibited from doing in the state. This guide provides an overview of debt collection laws in Ohio, when they apply and how they work.

Key insights

  • The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) limits what debt collectors can do to collect on a debt.
  • Ohio also has a Consumer Sales Practices Act, which limits debt collection activity and protects against harassment and threats on a state level.
  • Residents of Ohio whose rights are violated can sue bill collectors under the FDCPA and Ohio state law.

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. The FDCPA applies to most consumer debts, but not to business debts. It also does not apply to debts pursued by the original creditor, or to a business you owed money to.

Ultimately, the FDCPA 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 people in debt stop all contact with debt collectors by informing them in writing that they do not want to receive communications any longer. If the debt collector continues its communications, they can be sued under the FDCPA and be forced to pay for legal fees as well as damages.

» MORE: How to handle bill collectors

Ohio debt collection laws

While the FDCPA provides consumer protections that apply in all 50 states, Ohio also has its own debt collection law, the Consumer Sales Practices Act.

Both of these laws apply to most consumer and personal debts a person can have, including credit cards, auto loans, medical bills and utility bills. However, these laws do not apply to money owed to government agencies, child support or taxes. Also note that both the FDCPA and Ohio’s debt collection law apply to third-party debt collectors and debt buyers, but not to original creditors trying to collect the money they owe.

Debt collection practices

Many of the provisions in the state law duplicate protections built into the FDCPA, but they are still worth noting.

Under Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act, bill collectors are prohibited from:

  • Harassing you or using obscene words in their communications
  • Contacting you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Contacting you without identifying themselves
  • Telling others about your debt
  • Contacting you at work if your employer disapproves
  • Threatening you with arrest or jail time
  • Using false names or statements
  • Implying that they are attorneys, government representatives or with the credit bureaus
  • Falsely representing that you have committed a crime
  • Misrepresenting the amount you owe on your debt
  • Communicating with you by postcard
  • Contacting you personally when they know you have legal representation
  • Using a telephone to harass or annoy you
  • Accepting a postdated check unless certain conditions are met
  • Communicating in a way that leads to financial charges (e.g., collect phone calls)

Statute of limitations

According to Jeremiah Heck, founding partner of Luftman, Heck & Associates in Dublin, Ohio, the state's collection statute is six years regardless of the type of debt.

"This doesn't mean your debt disappears after that, but it means a debt collector can't take legal action against you more than six years after the debt became overdue or a payment was last made," he said.

Licensing and registration

Heck said that Ohio debt collectors do not need to be licensed to operate in the state. However, bill collectors still have to comply with the FDCPA, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and state laws such as Ohio's Consumer Sales Practices Act.

Required notices and rights to dispute

Debt collectors in Ohio and in other states have to send you something called validation information within five days of their initial contact with you. This information can be sent electronically or through the regular mail, but it must include:

  • Explanation that the communication is from a debt collector
  • Contact information and address of the debt collector
  • Name of creditor(s) you owe money to
  • Account number(s) associated with the debt
  • Itemization of the current amount of the debt that reflects interest, fees, payments and credits
  • Current amount of the debt owed when the notice is provided
  • Information on how to dispute the debt
  • Notification that you have 30 days to officially dispute the debt

If you believe a debt is not yours, it's partially incorrect or you don't even recognize the debt, you have 30 days to file a formal dispute in writing. You also have the same 30-day period to request information about the original creditor.

Disputing the debt or asking for more information on the original creditor means the debt collector must pause collection efforts until they respond to you. They must provide the information you request, and send proof (or "validation") of the debt such as a copy of the original bill.

If you don't respond within the 30-day timeline, the bill collector can assume the debt is valid and continue their collection activities.

Enforcement and penalties

According to Heck, debt collectors can be held accountable in several ways if they violate the law. They could face administrative enforcement from the state attorney general and federal agencies like the Federal Trade Commission.

Heck also said that debtors can take private action to sue unlawful collectors and recover damages. In fact, consumers whose rights have been violated can sue bill collectors under both the federal FDCPA and Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act within one year of when a violation occurred.

» MORE: How to get out of debt

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    What happens if I get sued by a debt collector in Ohio?

    Ohio law says that if you are served with court papers, you have 28 days after you receive them to respond to the complaint. If you do not believe you owe all or part of the money, you can "file an answer" and dispute the debt.

    Does disputing a debt make it go away?

    Disputing a debt within 30 days of receiving validation information does not make the debt go away. It just means that bill collectors have to pause their activities until they send you proof of the money you owe.

    Where do I file a complaint about a bill collector in Ohio?

    If you want to file a formal complaint about a bill collector operating in the state of Ohio, you can do so with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or with the Federal Trade Commission.

    Bottom line

    Debt collectors in Ohio must follow federal and state laws as they attempt to collect on unpaid debts, and this includes stopping contact with you if you request it in writing. If they violate your rights in any way, you can also sue them under the FDCPA or Ohio’s debt collection law and become eligible for damages and coverage for your legal bills.

    That said, telling bill collectors to stop calling won't make the debts you owe go away. If you want to get out of debt and limit the consequences of nonpayment, it may be time to speak with a credit counseling agency, an attorney or another third party who can help.

    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 laws limit what debt collectors can say or do?" Accessed Dec. 21, 2023.
    2. Federal Trade Commission, "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act." Accessed Dec. 21, 2023.
    3. Federal Trade Commission, "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act." Accessed Dec. 21, 2023.
    4. Ohio Laws and Administrative Rules, "Section 1321.45 | Prohibited short-term loan debt collection practices." Accessed Dec. 21, 2023.
    5. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, "Understanding debt collection laws." Accessed Dec. 21, 2023.
    6. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, "Debt Collection FAQs." Accessed Dec. 21, 2023.
    7. 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 Dec. 21, 2023.
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