News & Resources

Fast food vendor drops debt collection suit

Dec 04, 2012 Philip Burgess

Usually when a debt collection firm is involved with an individual who owes money, the scenario is fairly simple. An agent from the company gathers the contact information for the debtor and proceeds with speaking to the person. Generally, the two parties eventually come up with a payment plan that works for all - the company in question is repaid, but on the consumer's time. Recovery service staffers work to help the individual, who might be experiencing money issues, looking for the best outcome. However, last summer a landmark case arose. Fast food company Whataburger become involved in the debt collection situation being experienced by one of its employees, an exceedingly rare scenario. This presented an entirely new situation for recovery workers across the industry to use as a training tool. Company sues collection agency
In August, executives of the San Antonio-based chain decided to sue NCO Financial Systems after an agent become persistent in trying to contact one of the company's employees. According to the Houston Chronicle, the lawsuit was levied when one of the firm's workers allegedly called Whataburger's headquarters trying to track down an employee who owed money. The source detailed how the food vendors claimed that 50 phone calls were made to the corporate line in two months' time, which lawyers said tied up the phone lines, potentially preventing business and eating up employees' time. NCO allegedly tried to contact administrators at Whataburger after a cease-and-desist letter was sent, though the situation was murky because it was not the debtor himself who sent the note, rather the chain as a whole. No longer an issue
However, debt collectors looking to learn something from the unique situation may have to see if a similar case pops up in the future, as Whataburger recently decided to stop pursuing the lawsuit. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the two parties settle on an undisclosed agreement out of court, with no details released. "We resolved our differences and the parties no longer have a dispute," Whataburger general counsel Michael Gibbs told the source in an emailed statement. For now, recovery service firms should use the situation as an example to teach employees best practices when it comes to contacting parties other than the debtor in order to track the individual down. For example, Section 804 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act states that a third party can be contacted if the collector doesn't state that the person needs to pay off a debt and if they're only contacted once, as long as truthful information is given.