Judge Grants MSJ For Defendant in FDCPA Case About Pre-Confirmation ID

It’s the collection industry’s version of the chicken-and-the-egg. A consumer refuses to confirm his or her identity because the collector will not go into detail about a collection call, but the collector can not go into detail until the consumer’s identity is verified. Collectors have to stick to their guns in these cases and a District Court judge in Maryland just provided some additional ammunition for collection agencies.

The judge granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment after it was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because a representative said his company was a “financial services company” when asked by the plaintiff during a call. The exchange, however, came as the plaintiff was refusing to confirm her identity. She ultimately hung up without confirming she was the intended recipient of the call, but filed suit alleging the defendant violated Section 1692e(10) of the FDCPA among other claims. She alleged that the statement made by the representative that he was calling from a financial services company was materially misleading.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Mayhall v. MRS BPO can be accessed by clicking here.

The judge recognized the “rock-and-a-hard-place” bind that the defendant was in, not wanting to risk a third-party disclosure violation if the person who picked up the phone was not the intended recipient of the call. “The question then becomes whether MRS’s alternative solution for these situations — instructing its agents to identify MRS as a ‘financial services company’ when addressing third parties — was materially false or misleading, opening itself up to a § 1692e(10) claim,” posed Judge George Hazel of the District Court for the District of Maryland.

“…the agent’s statement was not clearly or outlandishly false — the agent did not state that MRS was a charity or a relative, for example, to lull Plaintiff into confirming her identity before surprising her with the call’s real purpose,” Judge Hazel wrote. “Finally, read in context, particularly with respect to the agent’s repeated efforts to confirm Plaintiff’s identity, his refusal to provide additional information to an unauthorized party, and his ending of the call without requesting more information or a call back, the Court is satisfied that the agent’s statement was not part of a strategy to deceive Plaintiff or covertly extract information she would not have otherwise offered.”

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