Collector - May 2017 - 54
Sorry, Wrong Number
Contacting the wrong party can be a potential FDCPA violation.
t can happen to anyone. A phone
number that has been scrubbed and
verified as the consumer's turns out
to be a wrong number. While calling a
wrong number can be an honest mistake,
it can also potentially be a Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act violation.
The FDCPA does not specifically
prohibit wrong-party calls. However,
if a collector continues to pursue the
wrong person after being informed of
the mistake, the debt collector could
potentially violate the FDCPA and
In many instances, the FDCPA applies
to "consumers" as defined by the act.
However, some provisions under the
act apply to "any person." One example
of such a provision under the FDCPA
prohibits "[c]ausing a telephone to ring
or engaging any person in telephone
conversation repeatedly or continuously
with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass
Courts have allowed nonconsumers to
bring an action against a debt collector
under this portion of the FDCPA, as
it specifically prohibits engaging "any
person"-not just a "consumer." Although
any person affected by a wrong-party
call could potentially bring an action,
the circumstances of the case determine
whether or not the debt collector's actions
rose to the level of harassment.
For instance, in some cases where a debt
collector has stopped calling the wrong
number after being informed, courts
have found that the debt collector did
not violate the FDCPA. Problems could
also arise if the debt collector disclosed
information regarding another consumer's
debt to the wrong-party individual.
However, the court system is not the
only place where people can complain
about wrong-party calls. Wrong-party calls
generate numerous complaints to regulators
such as the Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission,
state attorneys general and other regulators.
These types of calls may also potentially
violate other consumer protection
statutes such as the Telephone Consumer
Protection Act if the calls were made with
an autodialer or contain a pre-recorded
message. That's why debt collectors must be
aware of the issues surrounding wrongparty calls and have plans on how to handle
them when they occur.
For a more in-depth look at wrong party
calls, ACA International members can
review ACA SearchPoint™ document #3045,
Wrong-Party Contacts Under the FDCPA.
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,
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