July 23, 2018

FDCPA Does Not Give Debt Collector the Right to Leave Messages on Your Phone Answering Machine

Answering machine blinkingAs you may know, there are both federal and state laws that offer a variety of protections to individuals who are in debt and who are being dunned by debt collectors.  The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act offers a variety of protections in cases involving collection agencies (as opposed to the actual creditor).  In other words, a credit card company can do and say certain things and remain legal, but if a collection agency does or says the exact same things, those actions would be a violation of the FDCPA and make the collection agency subject to a claim for damages.

Two of the protections provided by the FDCPA include:

  • a prohibition against communicating with a debtor when the collection agency employee does not identify himself as a debt collector; and
  • communicating about your debt with third parties

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (which provides controlling precedent for Georgia) recently issued an important decision that struck down a somewhat bizarre argument by a debt collector regarding phone messages.  This case benefits consumers by clarifying the rules about telephone messages by bill collectors.

The case of Edwards v. Niagara Credit Solutions involved a situation in which the debt collector (Niagara) left “bare bones” messages on a phone answering machine asking Ms. Edwards to call back about an “important matter.”

Niagara argued that its employee did not identify itself as a debt collector because someone other than the debtor might hear the message, thus violating the “third party communications” prohibition. [Read more…]

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