SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a new law to help protect Illinoisans from harassment and inappropriate calls from debt collectors. Senate Bill 1398 limits the amount and type of contact debt collectors may have with residents who have unpaid debts, and is in direct response to numerous complaints from individuals about embarrassing communications and inappropriate harassment by collection agencies.
“Some debt collectors will stop at nothing to track down their targets. This law will help make sure they don’t overstep their boundaries and use harassment or threats to collect,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
SB 1398 was sponsored by State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and State Representative Marlow Colvin (D-Chicago). The law takes effect January 1, 2008.
Marilyn D. from Spring Grove would benefit from the provisions of SB 1398. Marilyn’s last name resembles that of her husband’s ex-wife, who had acquired some previous debt which remains unpaid and has been sent to collection by the original creditor. Marilyn has been receiving calls at her place of employment and, despite numerous attempts to notify the collection agency that they may not call her there they have persisted and have threatened to make her “debt” known to others at her place of employment, if she doesn’t “pay up.”
Marilyn is also dealing with harassing calls from the collector and the fear that her employment may be jeopardized by the unscrupulous tactics of the collection agency. The additional protections offered by SB1398 would provide her with the weapons she needs to fight this obvious harassment.
SB1398 contains a set of basic consumer protections for debtors which will prevent Illinois collection agencies from harassing them unfairly and attempting to embarrass them with coworkers and family members in efforts to collect debts. It also ensures that consumers are informed of the amount of the debt, who is owed the money, that the debtor has the right to dispute the debt.
“It isn’t fair for debt collectors to harass people who are trying to pay their bills or have already hired lawyers to deal with their debts. Under this law, debt collectors will have to respect the privacy of those in debt,” said Rep. Colvin.
“Being in debt is never easy, but with these new restrictions, debt collectors will have to be more respectful of the debtor’s privacy and instructions regarding payment,” said Sen. Harmon.
SB 1398 requires debt collectors to honor a consumer’s instruction to contact their attorney instead of themselves, and cease collection efforts if the debtor notifies the collector that he or she will not pay the debt. Finally if a debtor can show that he or she is the victim of identity theft, the collection efforts must stop until the collector can demonstrate that the debt was incurred by the target of the collector and not the thief.