Analysis Of Fair Debt Collection Practices Act – Section 1692b

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In this series on the FDCPA we have discussed Section 1692 (Congressional Findings and Purpose of the FDCPA) and Section 1692a (Definitions of Terms Used in FDCPA)

Today, we will discuss Section 1692b which is entitled “Acquisition of Location Information” which explains how and when a collection agency can legally contact a third party (anyone other than you or your spouse). This is critically important as bill collectors love to contact third parties because it is so effective at creating pressure on consumers to pay debts. The truth of the matter is debt collectors rarely comply with this Section 1692b and the Section 1692c which also deals with third party contacts.

First, this law only deals with debt collectors who are communicating with anyone other than the consumer when the purpose is to obtain location information. “Any debt collector communicating with any person other than the consumer for the purpose of acquiring location information about the consumer.”

If the collector is calling or communicating with the third person in an attempt to collect the debt (i.e. not for obtaining location information) then Section 1692b does not apply.

Remember we looked at the definitions of 1692a and we found out “location information” only means home address, home phone, and place of employment.

But let’s assume that the collector is really only looking for “location information” – what must the collector do to follow the law?

“(1) identify himself, state that he is confirming or correcting location information concerning the consumer, and, only if expressly requested, identify his employer;” so the debt collector has to say what the purpose of the call is and can only identify the collection agency if asked.

This means the collector can’t call and say “Is Mr. Smith OK because I have not heard back from him. Would you give him a message for me?”

The reason this is wrong is the purpose of the call – obtaining location information – must be disclosed to the third party. If the collector is asking about the health of the consumer this is wrong as it is not permitted by the statute. Asking to give a message is not allowed – only obtaining location information is permitted.

“(2) not state that such consumer owes any debt;”

It is critical to understand that the collector cannot, in any way, state that the consumer owes a debt. This seems so common sensical as one of the purposes of the law is to avoid “invasions of privacy.” But it might be shocking to realize how often debt collectors call third parties and leave messages that the consumer owes money or that the caller is a “debt collector” attempting to collect a debt. This violates this requirement of “not stat[ing] 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;”

This means collectors can’t keep calling third parties and asking them over and over if they have or will give up the location information on the debtor. We see collectors saying they will “continue to harass you” unless the third party gives the location information. This is illegal and should get the collector sued by both the third party and the debtor.

“(6) after the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with regard to the subject debt and has knowledge of, or can readily ascertain, such attorney’s name and address, not communicate with any person other than that attorney, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to the communication from the debt collector.”

This final section we will look at today is often violated. If the collector is told the consumer has an attorney regarding the debt (or if the collector knows it), then no communication is allowed with the consumer. The collector must communicate only through the lawyer. When collectors violate this, the consumer can sue for a violation of this part of the statute. Some collectors base their operation on being able to intimidate the consumer and it drives them crazy to have to deal with a consumer attorney so they simply ignore this and still call the consumer directly.

We hope this post gives you a little bit of insight into this section of the FDCPA. We have reprinted the entire text of this section below.

Section 1692b – Acquisition of Location Information
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;
(4) not communicate by post card;
(5) not use any language or symbol on any envelope or in the contents of any communication effected by the mails or telegram that indicates that the debt collector is in the debt collection business or that the communication relates to the collection of a debt; and (6) after the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with regard to the subject debt and has knowledge of, or can readily ascertain, such attorney’s name and address, not communicate with any person other than that attorney, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to the communication from the debt collector.

In closing this section, if you have any questions or concerns about your rights related to abusive debt collectors, and if you live in Alabama, please feel free to call us at 205-879-2447 or contact us through our website. If you live outside of Alabama, we suggest you look for a local consumer lawyer at the National Association of Consumer Advocates website.

You can also join our Facebook Fan Page – Alabama Consumer Protection Attorneys where we share useful information about the same types of issues that we cover in this blog.

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