Collection agencies may respond to complaints raised by individuals who have asked the companies to stop contacting them about their debts, according to a clarification by the Federal Trade Commission. The clarification resolves an apparent conflict between the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The fair-debt law generally prohibits collectors from contacting consumers after receiving written requests to cease communications. The fair-credit law says that when consumers dispute information in their credit reports, in certain circumstances the company that furnished the data to the credit bureau must investigate. The FTC provided the clarification in a letter last week to ACA International, a trade group for collectors. A collection agency is allowed to give consumers the results of such investigations, even if they had sent the agency a written request to cease communication, the letter states. Obtaining the clarification was "a critical matter" to the group's members, Valerie Hayes, ACA vice president of legal, compliance and government affairs, said in a press release.

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