What Is a Cease and Desist Letter?
A cease and desist letter is a written notice that formally requests an individual or business to stop (cease) engaging in unlawful and/or unwanted behavior (desist). If problems continue, your letter lets them know you’re prepared to take legal action.
A cease and desist letter is also known as a:
- Cease and desist notice
- Stop harassment letter
- Demand letter
Why Send a Cease and Desist Letter?
You need to use a cease and desist letter whenever you want to stop another person or organization from violating your legal rights. We provide free templates for the most common cease and desist letters use cases, including:
Most Common Cease and Desist Letters
A cease and desist harassment letter provides evidence that you formally asked someone to stop harassing you.
For debt collectors
For personal or sexual harassers
Use a cease and desist harassment letter if you’re receiving personal or sexual harassment, unwanted treatment, or being threatened. The letter warns your harasser to end their repeated, unwanted behavior because it’s uncomfortable, threatening, and/or offensive.
- Download a free cease and desist harassment template.
Note: A harassment cease and desist letter cannot be sent to someone for simply being annoying one single time. Instead, the harassment must occur repeatedly over a period of time, but it can be over a short period.
To thoroughly document the problem, be sure to include details in your harassment letter like:
- Dates: When the harassment took place
- Location: Where the harassment occurred
- Unlawful behavior: Details of the type of harassment
2. Debt Collection
Use a debt collection cease and desist letter debt collection to request that a debt collection agency stop overwhelming you with excessive phone calls.
Cease and Desist Debt Collection
|State of _________||Rev. 1399ECD|
[Sender’s Full Name]
[City, State, Zip Code]
VIA [Certified Mail / Overnight Mail / Email (email address) / Other Method of Delivery]
[Debt Collector’s Full Name]
[Contact Person Name, Title (if applicable and known)]
[City, State, Zip Code]
RE: Cease and Desist – Debt Collection Contact
Dear [Mr./Ms.] [Contact Person’s Last Name] / To Whom It May Concern:
This letter serves as notice to you and your company to immediately cease and desist all contact and communication with me regarding the collection of an alleged debt and all related matters. I received [a telephone call on _____[date of call] / a letter/email/fax dated _____[date of correspondence] / numerous telephone calls and messages in one day on _____[date of call] / numerous telephones calls on my home phone, cell phone and work phone / other – write in by user]. You claim that I owe debt in the amount of $_____ to _____[name of creditor], account number _____. [I do not owe this debt and I dispute this claim.]
Pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 1692, I demand that you and your company terminate all further contact with me including but not limited to communication via telephone, mail correspondence, electronic mail, or facsimile. [Your actions to collect debt from me are __________ [embarrassing / harassing / aggressive / deceitful / threatening / repeatedly / continuously / causing me emotional and physical duress / causing me undue stress / other.
If you continue to contact me other than to notify me that you are ending communication or that you are taking other legal action to collect the debt, I will be forced to take legal action against you for violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and will seek all available damages and remedies.
[Sender’s Full Name]
A debt collection agency does not have the right to harass you with numerous telephone calls and messages. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects you, your family, and your friends from being repeatedly contacted and harassed by these agencies. The law recognizes that abusive debt collection practices contribute to personal bankruptcies, marital instability, the loss of jobs, and the invasion of individual privacy.
You may need to send this letter to a debt collector if they:
- Call you at unreasonable hours, such as before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm
- Contact you at work after you’ve told them calls are not allowed
- Get ahold of you directly even though an attorney is representing you
- Discuss your debt with anyone besides you, your spouse, or your attorney
- Use profane language to intimidate you
- Threaten to arrest you or illegally take your property
- Garnish your federal benefits like Social Security, Veteran, or Military Benefits
Sending a cease and desist letter won’t forgive your debt, but it should stop the debt collection agency from calling you. However, the debt collector can still sue you to collect the money owed.
If the debt collection agency doesn’t stop contacting you within 15 days of receiving the letter, you should submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and/or your state’s Attorney General’s office.
3. Trademark Infringement
Use a trademark infringement cease and desist letter to explain to an infringing party why their use of a similar or identical trademarked name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, or image confuses people, and demand that they stop using it.
Be aware: unlike a copyrighted work that’s automatically protected once written, you must take steps to register a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) if you want comparable legal rights. If you haven’t done so, your trademark cease and desist letter will be powerless. You can check the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to see if your trademark idea has already been taken.
However, if you have registered your trademark, infringement is more easily enforceable with a cease and desist letter than other types of violations due to this mandatory application process. As a trademark owner, your rights are well documented.
Be sure to include the following information:
- The date the trademark was first used
- The trademark registration number
- The trademark registration date
- The geographic areas where the trademark is used
4. Copyright Infringement
Use a cease and desist copyright infringement notice to demand that a copycat website take down the unauthorized content and cease posting stolen work without proper credit.
If another website blatantly copies or imitates your original website, you are protected by US copyright laws, which encourage and protect original works of authorship. As soon as the expression of an idea is written, the work is copyrighted and the owner has the exclusive right to use and display this original copyrighted work, including:
- Monetizing the work
- Creating derivative works
- Displaying the work publicly
Although it’s not necessary to formally register an original work with the US Copyright Office in order to send a cease and desist letter, it is necessary to file an infringement lawsuit if the letters are ignored. Registering with the US Copyright Office creates a public record of the copyright, and anyone wishing to use all or a portion of this copyrighted work must then first get permission from the owner.
If your website is covered by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and a third party is posting your copyrighted material, you may have to send a takedown notice to your registered DMCA agent.
Use a defamation cease and desist letter to explain to a person or company that their false statements have harmed your character, reputation, trade, profession, or business, and that they must stop making such claims.
Depending on the state you live in, the law may recognize up to two types of defamation — written false statements (libel) or spoken false statements (slander). Defamation requires that false statements be “published” or made known to a third person, either verbally or in writing.
- Download a free cease and desist defamation letter template.
After receiving the defamation letter, the violating party must immediately stop making such false statements, and remove all false statements from any websites or forum posts.
A defamation claim must show the following four things:
- A false statement claiming to be fact
- Publication or communication to at least one third party
- Negligence by the publisher in publishing the false statement
- Damages or harm to the subject of the false statement
False statements that allege that someone (1) committed a crime, (2) has a “loathsome or contagious disease”, (3) engaged in sexual misconduct, or (4) did something unfit for their business, trade, or profession are considered defamation per se, and you would not need to prove any damages or harm.
How to Get a Cease and Desist Letter
You can get cease and desist letter drafted by hiring an attorney, using an online cease and desist builder, downloading a template, or writing it yourself.
You don’t need to be an attorney or expert to write and send a cease and desist letter, but it might be beneficial to do so if your case is complicated.
If you decide to write your own cease and desist, you’ll need to include the following information in your letter:
- Recipient: the individual or business who needs to stop the harassment, defamation, unreasonable debt collection, or copyright/trademark infringement
- Sender: the individual or business requesting that the recipient stop their unlawful behavior
- Unlawful Behavior: a detailed description of the behavior and why it’s unlawful and harmful
- Legal Action: a warning that a lawsuit will be initiated if the behavior doesn’t stop
- Date: the date when the letter is sent to the recipient
Cease and Desist Letter FAQ
How do I serve a cease and desist letter?
Serving a cease and desist letter is your first line of defense when someone is harassing you or infringing on your rights. Sending this legal notice can also help avoid a costly and prolonged court case.
Note: You do not need to hire an attorney to send someone a cease and desist.
To send a cease and desist, you must:
- State how and why the recipient is violating your rights
- Notify them that legal action will be taken if they don’t stop their behavior
- Send your cease and desist letter using certified mail and an affidavit of service
Experts recommend making a copy of your cease and desist letter for yourself before sending the original by certified mail, and paying for a “return receipt” so you can prove that the debt collector received your letter.
How do I respond to a cease and desist letter?
Receiving a cease and desist letter is a stressful experience. A cease and desist letter is often the initial response by an offended party, and you may not know how to respond. If you’re clearly in the wrong, your best course of action is to end the behavior outlined in the notice immediately and send a letter of apology. Always remember to be respectful and polite when responding to a cease and desist letter, then:
- Verify whether you are or aren’t in violation of someone’s rights
- Use this as an opportunity to open a dialogue with them
- See if you can negotiate an agreement outside of court
What if I ignore a cease and desist?
There’s no legal penalty or repercussion for ignoring a cease and desist, but you risk the sender beginning legal proceedings against you if their claims are legally sound. However, if you’re confident that the content of the letter is inaccurate or unenforceable, you can safely ignore a cease and desist letter. Still, it’s better to respond with a letter explaining your position, and your reason for non-compliance. Whether you ignore or respond to the letter, the other party may continue to send correspondence.