Can a debt collector contact an authorized user about a debt?
In one of our recent live Q&A sessions on Youtube, we received a question about authorized users being contacted on a debt.
A debt buyer had sent a letter to an authorized user on the viewer’s account.
Is it legal for a debt buyer to contact an authorized user about a debt?
I have added my cousin, Bob, as an authorized user.
Bob is also aware that he is an authorized user on the account.
They are telling Bob that I owe this debt and now I am embarrassed.
Is this legal?
This is a situation that I have never seen before, and I have been doing this for a long time.
I would say that the debt buyer has a serious problem on their hands, assuming this is a debt that is covered by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
So, assuming this is a consumer debt and not a business debt, they cannot contact anyone other than the consumer, with very limited exceptions.
The consumer is the person that owes or allegedly owes the debt, the consumer’s spouse, and the consumer’s attorney.
You. Your spouse. Your lawyer.
Those are the only people that the debt buyer can talk to.
What about an authorized user?
The authorized user does not owe the debt.
The authorized user simply has the ability to charge the account.
They have no liability for actually paying the account unless it is a very, very unusual situation.
So, if the debt buyer sent a letter to the authorized user saying that you owe this debt, they have committed a terrible violation of the law.
This is what we would call a “third party disclosure.”
Think of these violations in terms of a pyramid.
Down at the bottom, the lowest level, are what defense lawyers call “minor violations.”
These would be small, technical violations.
These are smaller cases.
As you work your way up to the top of the pyramid, the violations are more serious and result in larger cases.
At the top of the pyramid would be suing a completely innocent person who does not owe the debt. These cases are extremely valuable.
Just slightly below this, you would have third party disclosure cases.
A debt collector calls your neighbor and says, “Hey, John Watts owes this debt and you need to get him to pay.”
This is a huge violation and is a very valuable case against that debt buyer.
What this viewer described, I would say it is the same thing.
The authorized user is not the consumer and has no liability for payment of the account.
The debt buyer should not be contacting them.
If you would like to catch our next live Q&A session, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Thanks and have a great day!