Collector - February 2016 - 46


Who's Calling, Please?
The information agencies transmit by caller ID is regulated by state and federal law.

D

ebt collectors must decide what
information, if any, they will display
on caller ID. Sometimes collectors
choose to alter the information transmitted
by caller ID, such as by changing the name
of the caller or telephone number. But before
you do that, you must consider both state
and federal law requirements.
Rather than transmit a company's true
business name, collection agencies may
decide to transmit an alternate caller name.
Changing how the caller's name appears can
prove challenging as the information could
violate state and federal laws. Displaying
a false name, such as "Jane Doe," may be a
violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act's meaningful disclosure requirement if
there is no one of that name working at the
collection agency.
Conversely, transmitting the business's full
name could potentially violate the FDCPA's
prohibition on third-party disclosures if the
name discloses the fact that the call is from a
debt collector. Consequently, a debt collection
agency may want to provide an abbreviation
or d/b/a of its full name. Review the laws of
the states where calls will be placed prior
to using your d/b/a though, as some states
prohibit transmitting any name but the full
name of the business.
Changing the displayed telephone number
also carries risks. Some collectors have chosen
to display telephone numbers that use the
consumer's local area code despite that fact
that the calls originated from a location
outside that area code. The legality of this
practice is unclear. While the Federal Trade
Commission has found instances of this
practice to be providing false and misleading
information to consumers, some district
courts have found no violation when the
collector owned the displayed local telephone
number and that the number connected
to the collector when called back, so the
information displayed on the consumer's
caller ID was accurate.

46

Finally, a collection agency can choose
to block its information from appearing on
caller ID. When choosing to block the caller's
number, a caller ID service will transmit a
message such as "unavailable," "unknown,"
"private" or a similar term, rather than
displaying a name or telephone number. The
Telephone Consumer Protection Act does not
preclude a collection agency from blocking
its information. However, it does preclude
telemarketers from blocking their information.
For further analysis on transmitting caller
ID information, ACA members can review
ACA SearchPoint document #1168, Caller
ID Issues. This document provides case

analysis and practical considerations to help
you better understand the risks involved
in using caller ID. ACA members may also
want to review ACA SearchPoint documents
#3066, TCPA: Caller ID, and #3067, State
Caller ID Laws.
Have you checked out ACA's member-only
SearchPoint library? ACA SearchPoint is
filled with documents that put important
compliance information related to the
FDCPA, FCRA, TCPA, state laws and many
other topics at your fingertips. To access
ACA SearchPoint, visit acainternational.
org/searchpoint.

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