The Federal Trade Commission has granted the request of the state of Maine for an exemption from certain provisions of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). A discussion of the FTC's decision is published in the Dec. 27 Federal Register, and the effective date will be March 26, 1996.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, enforced primarily by the FTC, prohibits debt collectors from using false or misleading statements, harassing or abusive conduct or any unfair methods to collect debts. Among other things, debt collectors are prohibited from making false threats to coerce payment; using deceptive collection notices that falsely appear to be from an attorney or a court; and engaging in any sort of harassment, such as threatening violence, using profanity and obscenities, or making continuous telephone calls. Under the FDCPA, states can apply for an exemption if they have existing laws that cover the same debt collection practices covered by the federal law. To obtain an exemption, the state laws must provide an overall level of protection to the consumer that is substantially similar to that provided by the federal FDCPA, and the state must demonstrate that there is adequate provision for enforcement.
Maine is the first state to seek an exemption from the FDCPA. In its May 1994 petition, Maine stated that provisions of its Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and related statutes provide substantially similar or greater protection for consumers than similar provisions of the federal FDCPA. Maine's request was placed on the public record for comments for 90 days. Two comments were received.
After evaluating the request and the comments received, the Commission has granted Maine an exemption from Sections 803-812 of the FDCPA for various classes of debt collection practices conducted within the State of Maine. The exemption includes all intrastate written and oral debt collection communications which are deceptive, unfair or abusive under the Maine law.
The exemption will remain in effect as long as the Maine law continues to afford substantially equivalent protection to that of the FDCPA. Maine is required, however, to provide a report to the Commission no later than two years after the date this exemption becomes effective, and every two years thereafter, concerning the manner in which the State has enforced its law.
The Commission vote to grant the state of Maine's request for exemption from provisions of the FDCPA was 5-0.
Copies of Federal Register notice and of the original petition for exemption are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC Matter No. P934807)