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Your Guide to Missouri’s Debt Collection Laws

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In a Nutshell

Missouri residents are best protected against debt collector misconduct by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA protects consumers against debt collector harassment, deception, and other unfair practices. In Missouri, the statute of limitations for open accounts — which often includes credit card debt — is five years. The statute of limitations for debts backed by written contracts is 10 years. This often includes medical bills.

Written by Jonathan Petts
Updated December 16, 2023

What Are the Debt Collection Laws in Missouri?

Unlike some states, Missouri doesn’t have a comprehensive state-specific debt collection law. This means Missourians' primary line of defense against bad behavior from debt collectors is the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). 

That said, the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) may apply to some debt collection cases, particularly if deceptive practices relate to the sale of goods and services. For example, the MMPA applied in a 2018 Missouri Supreme Court case involving dental service debt collection. Even so, your best line of defense is probably still the FDCPA, so it’s important to know your rights under this federal law.

How Does the FDCPA Protect Missouri Consumers?

The FDCPA is a federal law that shields consumers from abusive, deceptive, and unfair practices by third-party debt collectors.

Here’s an overview of the law and who it applies to:

A blue and white diagram with white text that provides an overview of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Under the FDCPA, debt collectors have certain obligations, including the following:

Blue and white infographic explaining four things debt collectors must do under federal law.

The FDCPA also lays out certain prohibited practices, including the following:

Blue infographic detailing FDCPA prohibitions

What Can You Do if a Debt Collector Breaks the Law in Missouri?

If you believe a debt collector has broken a state or federal law while trying to collect a debt from you, you can file a complaint against them or sue them to recover damages.

You can file a complaint against debt collectors who violate the FDCPA with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) online. The CFPB is the federal agency that helps enforce the FDCPA and punish companies that violate it.

If your issue involves a bank, mortgage broker, or lender, you can try filing a complaint locally with the Missouri Division of Finance.

You can also bring a lawsuit against companies that violate the FDCPA or the MMPA. 

You can sue for FDCPA violations in a federal court. If you win, you can receive compensation for any actual financial losses or harm (actual damages) and up to $1,000 in statutory damages, which is compensation for the debt collector breaking the law.

If the MMPA applies to your case, you can file a lawsuit in a Missouri Circuit Court. If you win, you could receive compensation covering actual financial losses (actual damages), additional fines to penalize the collector (punitive damages), court-ordered corrective actions (equitable relief), and reimbursement for legal expenses like attorney fees.

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What Is the Statute of Limitations for Debt Collection in Missouri?

Statute of Limitations

Missouri’s statutes of limitations vary by debt type as follows:

  • Oral/unwritten contracts (this usually includes open accounts and credit cards): Five years

  • Written contracts (this usually includes medical bills): 10 years

  • Contracts of sale: Four years

If you’re contacted out of the blue about an older debt, be careful what you say to the debt collector or creditor. And before you take any action toward repaying the debt, even a small amount, verify the debt and ask about the statute of limitations for the debt. To learn more, read What To Do if You’re Contacted About an Old Debt.

What Can Debt Collectors Do To Collect Debt in Missouri? 

Debt collectors in Missouri are bound by the regulations of the FDCPA, but they can still engage in collection activities. This may include phone calls, letters, and potentially taking legal action to collect debts

If you receive a notice of a debt lawsuit against you, it’s important to take action! If you don’t, you risk losing the lawsuit, which can lead to wage garnishment, a bank levy, or a lien against your property. Many debt collectors will ask the court for a wage garnishment order if they win the case against you. This allows them to take money directly from your paycheck. However, state laws limit how much they can take each pay period.

Getting sued is stressful, but Upsolve has a step-by-step guide to responding to a debt collection lawsuit in Missouri.

If you get behind on a car payment, you may also be at risk of having your car repossessed. In Missouri, creditors and debt collectors must first provide you with a notice of default, but they can repossess your car without a court order.

Need Help With Debt Relief? Here Are Some Options

Tackling debt can be challenging, but you're not alone.  You have several options to manage or even eliminate your debt. 

Meeting with a consumer credit counselor is a great place to start. Consumer credit counseling is a free service designed to help you understand and manage your debts more effectively. A credit counselor can give you personalized advice on a debt management plan or other debt relief strategies.

If you want to wipe out your debt for good and get a fresh start, you can also consider filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Upsolve has helped over 300,000 people clear away more than $700 million in debt since 2016… and our service is completely free. Want to learn more? See if you're eligible to use our free filing tool.

Written By:

Jonathan Petts


Jonathan Petts has over 10 years of experience in bankruptcy and is co-founder and CEO of Upsolve. Attorney Petts has an LLM in Bankruptcy from St. John's University, clerked for two federal bankruptcy judges, and worked at two top New York City law firms specializing in bankrupt... read more about Jonathan Petts

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