In case you didn’t notice, two articles published on InsideARM.com just this past week (3/19-25) serve as reminders of how debt collectors of any stripe can get in trouble by not getting the “little things” exactly right! Sometimes, even your best efforts aren’t enough, because it’s easy to get “caught between a rock and a hard place.”
Voice Mail Messages
Author Rozanne M. Andersen in “Foti Out? Zortman In? What’s Up With Voicemail Messaging?” deals with a dilemma that has been around possibly as long a voicemail, itself, and that is perhaps the ultimate in “caught between a rock and a hard place” collection situations.
Under Section 805(b) of the FDCPA, debt collectors are prohibited from disclosing the existence of a debt to a third party without the debtor’s consent. The Rock?
However, sections 806(6) and 807(11) require debt collectors to disclose their identity when communicating with a consumer. And that’s not all. You must disclose the purpose of the call and that any information obtained can be used to collect the debt. The hard place?
There is even less wiggle room when the message is left by an autodialer or a robocall. (See NL Insider: “Robocalls: Which side are you on?”)
Sooooo….when doing a simple thing like leaving a voicemail, complying with one section of the FDCPA leaves you at risk of violating the other and vice versa. To determine if there’s a viable third option that might satisfy the requirements of both sections, we encourage you to read the entire article (click here), but we can’t guarantee that one little misstep won’t lead to a tight squeeze.
What could be non-compliant with the envelopes you use to send a debt collection message? Well, apparently everything down to what the recipient can see through the address window! Author Tomio Narita reminds us in “Is Your Envelope “Benign” Under The FDCPA?” that section 1692f(8) of the FDCPA, which regulates collection envelopes, is not new. “It has been a source of frustration for collectors for decades. Fortunately, some courts have recognized that a strict application of section 1692f(8) may lead to absurd results, and have held that ‘benign language’ on an envelope does not violate the FDCPA….Not every court has adopted the ‘benign language’ exception to section 1692f(8), however, and it is not always easy to predict what language will fit within the exception.”
Apparently, even if your company name does not reveal that you are a debt collector, or you don’t have any “language or symbol” on a debt collection envelope other than your address, it is still easy to overlook some little thing, like the recipient address window, that puts you in that “hard place“ with an envelope that’s not “benign.” To read the whole article and see examples of case studies regarding envelopes, click here.
A Constant Struggle
Staying compliant with the ever-changing and even the long-standing debt collection regulations can be a constant struggle. Read everything you can find on compliance. Listen to webinars. Read this and other blogs and articles. Attend conference sessions. Seek legal counsel. (We can recommend some excellent law firms.) Try as hard as you can to walk a path that won’t leave you “caught between a rock and a hard place,” while on the sometimes treacherous journey of debt collection.
By Marti Lythgoe, NL Editor