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California Consumer Protection Law: Prohibitions Against Communications by Debt Collectors with Third Parties


Many consumers have learned the hard way that debt collectors will engage in extraordinarily abusive tactics in their efforts to extract payment. Examples of such abusive tactics include late night collections calls; communications with employers and/or family members; publishing "deadbeat" lists; and incessant phone calls. Each of the foregoing practices is expressly forbidden by Title 1.6C of the California Civil Code. If you have been victimized by a debt collector, you can obtain monetary damages.

Some of the protections provided to California consumers are set forth in Article 1788.12 of the California Civil Code, which is reprinted below, in its entirety:

§ 1788.12. Communications with third parties; unlawful practices

No debt collector shall collect or attempt to collect a consumer debt by means of the following practices:
(a) Communicating with the debtor's employer regarding the debtor's consumer debt unless such a communication is necessary to the collection of the debt, or unless the debtor or his attorney has consented in writing to such communication. A communication is necessary to the collection of the debt only if it is made for the purposes of verifying the debtor's employment, locating the debtor, or effecting garnishment, after judgment, of the debtor's wages, or in the case of a medical debt for the purpose of discovering the existence of medical insurance. Any such communication, other than a communication in the case of a medical debt by a health care provider or its agent for the purpose of discovering the existence of medical insurance, shall be in writing unless such written communication receives no response within 15 days and shall be made only as many times as is necessary to the collection of the debt. Communications to a debtor's employer regarding a debt shall not contain language that would be improper if the communication were made to the debtor. One communication solely for the purpose of verifying the debtor's employment may be oral without prior written contact.
(b) Communicating information regarding a consumer debt to any member of the debtor's family, other than the debtor's spouse or the parents or guardians of the debtor who is either a minor or who resides in the same household with such parent or guardian, prior to obtaining a judgment against the debtor, except where the purpose of the communication is to locate the debtor, or where the debtor or his attorney has consented in writing to such communication;
(c) Communicating to any person any list of debtors which discloses the nature or existence of a consumer debt, commonly known as "deadbeat lists", or advertising any consumer debt for sale, by naming the debtor; or
(d) Communicating with the debtor by means of a written communication that displays or conveys any information about the consumer debt or the debtor other than the name, address and telephone number of the debtor and the debt collector and which is intended both to be seen by any other person and also to embarrass the debtor.
(e) Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the disclosure, publication or communication by a debt collector of information relating to a consumer debt or the debtor to a consumer reporting agency or to any other person reasonably believed to have a legitimate business need for such information shall not be deemed to violate this title.