How long does a company/collections agency have to collect on an outstanding bill?

UPDATED: Aug 3, 2011

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How long does a company/collections agency have to collect on an outstanding bill?

I was just contacted by a collections agency for an amount supposedly due from 2 years ago. The company owed was a telephone company which was taken over by another company. I can’t get a “corporate” number for the new company to verify the account number, outstanding amount, etc (and the collection agency wouldn’t give me the information without paying up front). Bank records are too old and have been deleted so I can’t search to verify if I ever wrote a check for the same amount. Currently I am trying to buy a house, so I don’t want this hitting my credit report.

Asked on August 3, 2011 Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

A debt owed to a phone company would most  likely be deemed to arise under either a written contract (the service agreement) or to be an open account debt (one there you incur charges as you go). In either event, the statute of limitations is four years; that is, a creditor, or one acting on their behalf, can take legal action up to four years after the default or breach of contrat. (Note: the time period is calculated from when you stopped paying or violated the agreement, not from when the agreement was first entered into.) From what you write, it would therefore seem that a collections agency could still take action. To recover money from you, they will have to be able to prove the existence and amount of the debt, and when sued, you will be able to get the documentation from them (you can and should certainly request  it now). You have certain rights against a third-party debt collector: look up the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) to see what they are. Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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