Debt Collectors (and yeah..you lawyers too) take my message before you leave a message you might regret

In Foti v NCO Financial 424 F. Supp2d 643 (S.D.N.Y. 2006), the United States District Court in New York properly held that all communications from a debt collector must contain a warning that it is a communication from a debt collector. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) , itself, at 15 U.S.C. 1622e requires this. However, the FDCPA also prohibits a debt collector from communicating about the debt with anyone other than the debtor, the debtor’s spouse or attorney at 15 U.S.C. 1892(c)(b). In Foti, the debt collector attempted to reach the debtor by leaving a message. The court held:

“Thus, .given the choice of language by Congress, the FDCPA should be interpreted to cover communications that convey, directly or indirectly, any information relating to a debt, and not just when the debt collector discloses specific information about the particular debt being collected.

The court’s language in Foti would appear to taint any voicemail message left by a debt collector as a violation of the FDCPA. This may be, indeed an incredibly broad view of the word “communication: under the FDCPA and this court’s opinion has no formal binding precedential value outside of 2nd Circuit…BUT….the law in this area is far from settled and the District Court in 2nd Circuit stepped up to the plate and rendered an opinion. Any other circuit that is presented with this same issue will undoubtedly review the Foti case and its well reasoned opinion in formulating its own holding. This case is one large strike against debt collectors leaving messages. In my opinion, I would not wait for strikes 2 and 3 before advising my consumer debt collector clients to NOT leave messages on debt collectors’ phones.
My question is then, is why would any debt collector in his or her right mind ever leave a voicemail message for a debtor? I think the short answer is that no collector with some familiarity with Foti would ever leave a message for a debtor. Yes, I understand that the telephone is still the number one tool for collect debts without litigation. I also understand the value of auto dialers in debt collection agencies. What I don’t understand is why a collector would leave a message for a call back today.
Here is my best advice to you Consumer Debt Collectors and Attorneys who collect consumer debt - DON’T LEAVE VOICEMAIL MESSAGES FOR YOUR DEBTORS. Its just not worth the risk of getting hit with an FDCPA action.

If you have any debt collection related questions, call or email Attorney Gary Nitzkin for a free consultation.  Visit our website at www.creditor-law.com.  For more information about collection law, follow our blog at www.michigancollectionlawblog.com or call (888) 293-2882.

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 28th, 2010 and is filed under Uncategorized . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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