West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act
Know Your Rights with Creditors
Established in 1974, the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act is one of West Virginia’s most important laws protecting state residents. The law governs consumer credit sales and loans, as well as how banks and other creditors collect debts from consumers. This is a law that affects every West Virginia resident.
One of its most important provisions protects you from unfair debt collection practices. Most of us have purchased goods or received services on credit. Many have also received loans for homes, cars or to attend college. It is important that we repay these charges and loans in a timely manner, but sometimes it is not possible to pay as much as the creditor wants or situations arise that prevent you from paying at all. Despite what many believe, this does not just happen to “deadbeats” who don’t pay their bills. Too often, it happens because of a job layoff, a catastrophic illness or accident or another life changing event. Suddenly, a family who always paid their bills on time has to decide between putting food on the table, buying medicine, keeping the lights or heat on and paying their credit card bill. It can happen to anyone.
When it does, the creditor must then make special attempts to collect the debt or turn it over to a third-party collection agency to get payment. While it is important that the money owed be paid, it is equally important that consumers’ rights are protected and they are not subjected to abusive and illegal debt collection practices.
Consumers have the right to know the total amount of money they owe, the terms of the collection process and have an opportunity to pay only what is actually owed.
Consumers have the right to be free from abusive debt collection practices. Collectors cannot make hundreds of harassing phone calls to a person’s residence or place of business. They cannot use obscene or abusive language, threaten violence or harm to one’s reputation or property.
Consumers have the right to privacy. Collectors cannot publish your name, communicate with your employer or attempt to collect what is owed from family members or your friends.
Consumers cannot have their wages garnished without a court order.
Collection agencies have to maintain accurate records of debt collection attempts and cannot falsify those records by listing attempts that never occurred.
The West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act requires debt collectors to follow these and other legal guidelines—and provides for financial penalties each time they break the law.