Consumer rights: Collection agencies

Know your rights when dealing with a debt collection agency.

What to do if you're having trouble with a collection agency

If you think a collection agency has violated your rights, file a complaint with us or the Washington State Attorney General.

File a complaint with us

You can file a complaint with us online, by email, or by mail.

If the collection agency violated the law, we can take disciplinary action against them.

File a complaint with the Washington State Attorney General

You can also file a complaint on the Attorney General's website, or call one of the phone numbers below:

Collection agency rules

State law prohibits intimidating, threatening, or harassing conduct when collecting a debt.

Additionally, collection agencies may not do any of the following things.

Collection agencies aren't allowed to disclose your debt:

  • To a third party, except under the specific circumstances in RCW 19.16.250(9)
  • By publishing or posting a list of debtors, or threatening to do so

Collection agents aren't allowed to misrepresent themselves:

  • By using any name other than the one listed on their collection agency license
  • By using documents that appear to be judicial processes, government documents, telegrams, or emergency messages
  • By wearing a badge or law enforcement uniform
  • By implying they're officially connected with any law enforcement or government agency

When contacting you, collection agencies aren't allowed to:

  • Contact you or your spouse more than 3 times a week
  • Communicate with you at your workplace more than once a week
  • Communicate with you or your spouse at your home before 7:30 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you request they contact you during alternate hours
  • Use offensive language
  • Make threats of force, violence, or criminal prosecution such as jail time or taking of personal property (doesn't include filing a court case to obtain a judgment)
  • Threaten you with a bad credit rating if you don't pay the debt (doesn't include telling you the debt will be reported to a credit reporting agency, which may affect your credit rating)
  • Communicate directly with you if your attorney notifies them in writing to contact the attorney about your debt

Collection agents aren't allowed to collect or try to collect:

  • Any additional fee not authorized by law (doesn't include attorney's fees and taxable court costs awarded by a judge)
  • On a written note, contract, or stipulation where you're required to pay any amount other than the original debt, allowable interest, and applicable attorney's fees and taxable court costs

Washington State Collection Agency Act

We enforce the Washington State Collection Agency Act together with the Washington State Collection Agency Board. The law is intended to protect consumers and stop abusive practices by debt collectors.

What the law does

  • It covers the collection of any business, personal, family, or household debt
  • It applies to any person or business that solicits or collects debts owed to another for collection
  • It applies to creditors who use a different name when collecting from their debtors
  • It applies to anyone who directly or indirectly collects or tries to collect debts they have purchased

What the law doesn't do

  • It doesn't apply to banks, other lenders, or businesses that collect their own accounts using their own names
  • It doesn't include individuals making collections in their own name that are directly related to the operation of a business other than a collection agency, such as:
    • Lawyers
    • Abstract companies doing an escrow business
    • Real estate brokers
    • Insurance companies

Other resources

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Collection agencies must also follow the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which the Federal Trade Commission regulates. For more information, choose one of the options below.

Use the FTC's online resources

Visit the FTC website to:

Call the FTC

Need additional help? Here's how to contact us:

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