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Debt collectors need to be careful when leaving you a voicemail

According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors must disclose in every voice mail left for a consumer, that the communication is from a debt collector.  However, the FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from telling third parties that the consumer owes a debt.  Consequently, this creates a conundrum for debt collectors who leave voice mails for consumers. On the one hand, the debt collector must disclose that the communication is from a debt collector in their message. But on the other hand, disclosing that the communication is from a debt collector may violate the FDCPA’s prohibition of telling third parties about a debt.

The recent case of Edwards v. Niagra Credit Solutions, Inc. involved this exact problem.  Niagra Credit Solutions, in an attempt to comply with the FDCPA's rule of not disclosing debts to third parties, had a policy of not stating that the call was from a debt collector in voice mails they left for consumers.  However, this policy left them vulnerable to the FDCPA's other violation of not disclosing the call was coming from a debt collector.

When Niagra Credit was sued under the FDCPA, they defended themselves by stating that if they left the required notice, they risked violating the part of the FDCPA that prohibits disclosing that a consumer owes a debt to a third-party. The judge brushed aside Niagra Credit's defense of being in an impossible position by pointing out that the FDCPA “does not guarantee a debt collector the right to leave answering machine messages” and held that it is not legal to violate one part of the FDCPA in an attempt to comply with another part.

If you are being harassed by debt collectors in violation of the FDCPA, or if they have disclosed your debt to a third-party, you may be entitled to compensation.  Please call California Consumer Protection Attorney, Todd M. Friedman at (877) 449-8898 for a free consultation.

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