Text Messaging and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

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The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is designed to protect consumers from abusive or harassing conduct, false or misleading statements or unfair act by Debt Collectors.

What is “unfair or unconscionable” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

As usual, we start with the statutory definition.  Thanks to LII.

15 USC §1692c prohibits a collector from communicating with third parties that you owe a debt.

15 USC §1692d prohibits collectors from using abusive means to collect a debt, including

(5) Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.

(6) Except as provided in section 1692b of this title, the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.

15 U.S.C. §1692e says a debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading . . . means to collect a debt, including

(11) The failure to disclose in the initial written communication with the consumer and, in addition, if the initial communication with the consumer is oral, in that initial oral communication, that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose, and the failure to disclose in subsequent communications that the communication is from a debt collector, except that this paragraph shall not apply to a formal pleading made in connection with a legal action.

(14) The use of any business, company, or organization name other than the true name of the debt collector’s business, company, or organization.

15 U.S.C. §1692f says a debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.  Including–

(5) Causing charges to be made to any person for communications by concealment of the true purpose of the communication. Such charges include, but are not limited to, collect telephone calls and telegram fees.

What does this mean for you?

It means that a debt collector CAN collect by text message IF they comply with all of the rules of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  But they are very limited, when they have a limit of 140 characters.

If they only have 140 characters to communicate, and they must 1-disclose their identity, 2-that they are debt collectors, and 3-that they are collecting a debt, all 4-without causing you to be charged a fee, and 5-without disclosing to a 3rd party that you owe a debt, that’s pretty hard.  The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is strict liability, which means that if they violate ANY provision, that they can be sued.  It is similar in this fashion to the speed limits in the United States.  Neither the police officer or the judge cares WHY you were going 40 when the speed limit was 35, they only care THAT you were going 40. You have to pay the fine.  Similarly, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act says that they are not permitted to violate one provision in order to avoid violating another section. (See: Edwards v. Niagra Credit, (11th Cir)).    If the violate any provision, they must pay the fine.

Read next time about damages- both actual and statutory.

If you have been impacted by anything we mentioned here, you can make an appointment to see us.

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The rights afforded to you, as a consumer, under the FCRA and the FDCPA means that a corporation or party who has violated your rights may ultimately be made to pay for statutory damages, actual damages, and your legal fees. Therefore, if we agree to represent you in any case, you won’t pay any attorney’s fees unless we are successful and we recover on your behalf. We are here to serve and have assisted many consumers TO enforce their legal rights. Let us try and see if we can help you too. That means you pay no fee in your case unless we recover.

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Krumbein Consumer Legal Services, Inc.

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Richmond, VA 23230

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