A recent ruling from a District Court should have collection agencies reviewing how collectors leave messages.
The case, Halberstam v. Global Credit and Collection Corp (15-cv-5696), involved a collector who left a message with a third party when contacting the plaintiffs phone number. The person who answered the phone said, “Herschel (the plaintiff’s first name) is not in yet.” The collector asked if he could leave a message, which while simple, was problematic.
Name is Eric Panganiban. Callback number is 1-866-277-1877 … direct extension is 6929. Regarding a personal business matter.
While not precedent setting, it could be indicative a wider trend regarding how collectors leave messages.
When the person who answered the phone said “Herschel is not in yet,” that served as confirmation that the collector had the right phone number. But collectors are barred from communicating with third parties under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The defendant argued that it would simply be rude to just hang up, but the judge said it would have been perfectly allowable for the collector to respond, “No, thank you, I’ll call back later.” The defense’s argument against this is that it opens to door to making multiple calls to the plaintiff in order to reach him. The ruling says there is wide latitude in determining what is harassment, and having to make a few more calls would not be considered harassment.
The defendant also tried to argue that since the collector did not make any declarations or disclosures that he was not technically not yet making a collection call. But that circular logic did not fly with the judge, who granted the summary motion for the plaintiff.
The only way to avoid violating the statute at that point was for Panganiban to make a different decision by politely demurring, and perhaps trying again at some point in the future.
The motion for summary judgment can be downloaded here.