I find that many debtor collectors, although properly trained, frequently fall into a large trap under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Location Information Exception to the rule against contacting third parties is a large and gaping hope in many collectors’ understanding of the statute. Lets review it:
The General Rule against Contacting Third Parties under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
As a general rule, a collector may not discuss a debt owned by a consumer with anyone other than the consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector. See 15 U.S.C. 1692(c)(b). This rule is straight forward.
The term “location information” means a consumer’s place of abode and his telephone number at such place, or his place of employment.
If a debt collector does not have a consumer’s location information, then she may contact third parties to the debt as follows:
Any debt collector communicating with any person other than the consumer for the purpose of acquiring location information about the consumer shall–
(1) identify himself, state that he is confirming or correcting location information concerning the consumer, and, only if expressly requested, identify his employer; (2) not state that such consumer owes any debt; (3) not communicate with any such person more than once unless requested to do so by such person or unless the debt collector reasonably believes that the earlier response of such person is erroneous or incomplete and that such person now has correct or complete location information; 15 U.S.C. 1692b
The FDCPA is a strict liability statute so any violation of it by a debt collector will probably result in liability of that debt collector to the consumer.
CASE IN POINT
I recently read of a Texas woman who filed a lawsuit against a debt collection company after it called her mother to get personal information. Nicole Tommarazzo filed suit against Enhanced Recovery Co. on March 11 in the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division. According to the lawsuit, the collection company allegedly called Tommarazzo’s mother in connection with an attempt to collect a debt and disclosed information regarding the debt on a voicemail.
The Debt collector will probably settle the case for $1,000 to the consumer plus costs and attorneys’ fees. The attorneys’ fees almost always are at least double, if not triple what the consumer owes the consumer.
Moral of the Story - Collection agencies must spend some time and money teaching their debt collectors about the rules regarding third party contacts. This is a big trap and its easily avoidable.
If you have any debt collection related questions, call or email Attorney Gary Nitzkin for a free consultation. Call (888) 293-2882.