Fair Debt Collection Practices And Technology Debt Revisited

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It’s been over thirty years since the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was enacted, but in technical terms it’s been light years since the FDCPA’s passage. Back in 1970s, there wasn’t email, voicemail, cell phones weren’t present, and social networking was something that you did at social parties. Back then, debt collectors had three means of contacting a consumer: via landline phone, snail mail and perhaps through telegram.

Restrictions In Debt Collection

The FDCPA has strict rules against certain types of debt collector communication. For example, a debt collection agency can’t send you a letter in the mail and indicate that it’s from a debt collecting agency on the outer envelope. A collector can’t call you at all hours of the day and night, or contact you at work if he knows that your employer doesn’t allow it. But the prohibitions are often less about the method of communication than the intention behind it. The FDCPA was written to prevent debt collectors from harassing, threatening, misleading, or embarrassing consumers.

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VoicemailsRoboCalls and Social Media

With the technological advances of the past two decades, questions arise as to what types of communication are allowable under the FDCPA. Indeed, the Federal Trade Commission recently held a daylong public workshop about new technologies and the federal debt collection law. Three issues that were addressed were the use of voicemail, the use of robo-calls, and the use of social media.If you are being harassed by debt collectors or you are being illegally charged then you can click here.

Robo-Dialers and More

When it comes to robo-callers, there are a couple of issues at play. With a robo-call, your phone rings and you hear a pre-recorded message.That’s fine – if you’re the person the debt collection agency is calling. But what if somebody else answers the phone? Or what if the robo-caller leaves a message, and someone else grabs the messages off of voicemail? The FDCPA and subsequent caselaw has made it clear that a debt collector cannot tell a third party that they’re collecting a debt. It is also clear that a debt collection agency must tell the consumer they’re calling that the call is from an agency, and that any information you provide will be used in collection efforts.

What the Future Holds

So, can a collector leave a voicemail or robocall?  There have been judicial rulings both ways. What about tracking you down using a social network? There’s no clear caselaw in this area, but the spirit of the FDCPA is that you shouldn’t be harassed, misled, or embarrassed. It may be acceptable to send you a private message on a social network, but not to post on your public wall. The Federal Trade Commission is clearly looking into potential policy revisions in order to update the FDCPA. In the meantime, if you feel you’ve been embarrassed or harassed by a debt collector – using newer technologies or a plain old landline, you should contact a fair debt attorney. Consumer protection laws are meant to do just that – protect consumers. You shouldn’t be subjected to harassing – and illegal – debt collection practices.

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