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When have debt collection tactics gone too far?

Feb 04, 2013 Walt Wojciechowski

Connecting with consumers is crucial to debt collection agents, and in cases where an individual begins to avoid calls it can become necessary to pursue alternative routes of communication. But how far is too far when attempting to track down a consumer?

New technology has given debt collectors advanced ways of reaching the consumers they seek, particularly in the case of social media and wireless communication. Some advancements though can be abused more easily than others, as illustrated in a report by The Southeast Texas Record. Last week, the legal journal featured a motion made by a Sanger, Texas, resident to sue a debt collector he reported was making electronically operated calls to his mobile phone.

According to Edwards Air Force Base's website, the law under which the Texas man sued the accused debt collections agency prohibits actions that can be interpreted as harassment or a misuse of telephone-based communication - in this case, repeated automatic messages.

Another point debt collection firms must take care to avoid is scare tactics regarding the consumer's public image, assets or physical being. A business in Van Nuys, California, that was not careful to avoid such problems must pay over $1 million for the settlement of a case after consumers claimed they were disturbed, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Such action directly violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act which everyone in the debt collection industry needs to be familiar with. The act defines such language used in the reported threats as a means for lawsuit, but the inappropriate language was not the only issue in the plaintiffs' accusations.

The agency cited in the Los Angeles Times was found to have kept greater profits than it was entitled to in its debt collection practices. Where the company was initially flagged for its irresponsibility towards consumers, it was ultimately found to be cheating industry partners as well, according to the newspaper.

While consumers being contacted by debt collectors are being reached out to for legitimate reasons, debt collection data companies hoping to keep business afloat should keep laws and restrictions like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in mind and be sure to keep employees up to date on new developments.