Debt Collection A to Z: L is for Letter

May 14, 2015   |   John O’Neal

A staple of the debt collection industry is the dunning letter. Dunning refers to the letter’s mission to influence the debtor to pay up lest face consequences. Generally speaking, sending such letters is legal but there are guidelines as to what must and must not appear.

On the “must” side are usually:

  • warnings that the letter is a communication to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose
  • statement of the name, address, and contact phone number for the collector
  • statement of the account on which collection is sought as well as the amount claimed due
  • in the first letter to the debtor, a statement of the debtor’s right to obtain validation of the debt

On the “must not” side are:

  • threats of violence or physical harm to the debtor for failure to pay
  • threats to take action the collector either cannot or does not intend to take
  • false or misleading information about the collector’s status
  • false or misleading information about the nature or amount of the debt

Despite these rules some collectors create their own rules and policies and abuse the collection process. In these cases action is warranted and too often the collector will intimidate the debtor into thinking nothing can be done. Click here to learn a few tips and tactics on dealing with debt collectors. There are state and federal laws regulating debt collection and it is worth consulting an experienced attorney if you believe you have been subjected to letters or other communications and actions that violate these laws.

John T. O’Neal is a practicing attorney with the O’Neal Law Office in Greensboro, NC who focuses his practice in Personal Injury/Wrongful Death, Consumer Law (includes Auto Dealer Fraud/Vehicle Issues and Debt Defense Lemon Law), and various types of Civil Litigation handling cases across North Carolina. A long-time NCAJ member, he is a former Chair of the NCAJ Consumer Areas of Practice Section and a two-time Ebby Award winner.