Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff announces the filing of a lawsuit against Reliant Capital Solutions, LLC of Ohio. The lawsuit, which has been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that Reliant Capital Solutions contacted the plaintiff’s relatives – for reasons other than obtaining contact information – while attempting to collect a debt from her. The Complaint alleges that this was a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) because the general rule is that a debt collector is not permitted to communicate with any person other than the debtor in connection with the collection of a debt. The consumer/plaintiff is seeking an award of actual damages, statutory damages, costs and attorney fees.
The consumer’s lawsuit highlights one of the many ways debt collectors violate the FDCPA in attempting to collect a debt. The FDCPA only allows a debt collector to contact someone other than the debtor in collecting a debt in one very limited situation: to obtain contact information for the debtor. That’s it. And even then, there are important limits on the communication with a third party. In any communication with a third party, the debt collector must:
1) identify him or herself, state that (s)he is confirming or correcting contact information for the consumer, and state the name of his or her employer ONLY IF ASKED;
2) not state that the consumer owes a debt; and
3) only communicate with the person one time.
The failure to follow these strict limitations is an FDCPA violation. If a debt collector has current contact information for the consumer, the debt collector obviously cannot have a legitimate basis to contact any third party for any reason.
Note also that it will never be permissible, as Plaintiff has alleged in this case, for a debt collector to call a third party and ask to speak with the consumer (unless the number is a legitimate contact number for the consumer) or ask the third party to have the consumer call them.
It is not difficult to understand why debt collectors have a difficult time obeying the FDCPA in this area. Debt collectors know that if they call a friend or relative they can sometimes embarrass the consumer indirectly. They don’t have to tell the friend or relative that the consumer owes a debt. They know that by simply contacting them the issue will likely come up in communications between the two. For example:
Grandparent: Someone called here yesterday asking for you.
Consumer: Oh yeah, did they say who it was?
Grandparent: They said their name was John Smith with Reliable Services and they asked that you call them.
Grandparent: Do you know what it was about?
Consumer: Well… yeah… I think it might be a debt collector.
The embarrassment involved then causes the consumer to pay the debt for fear that other friends/relatives/coworkers will be informed that they may owe a debt. That kind of pressure to pay is illegal under the FDCPA, but debt collectors use it because it works.