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Repeated Hang Ups May Violate the FDCPA

By: Robert J. Nahoum

THE PROBLEM:

You are being hounded by debt collectors, the debt collection calls are coming fast and furious but one of the callers repeatedly hangs up either prior to or as soon as you or your voice mail answers the call.  Due to the hang ups, you don’t know the identity of the debt collector or the purpose of the call.

Can a debt collector repeatedly hang up before you or your voicemail answers the call without identifying itself?

The Rule:

Federal debt collection law known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short) regulates the conduct of third party debt collectors.  According to section 806(6) of the FDCPA, in each debt collection call the debt collector must make meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.  Also, section 807(11) of the FDCPA requires that in each communication the debt collector disclose the fact that the communication is from a debt collector.

In a recent court decision, Sussman v. I.C. Sys., Inc., No. 12-CV-0181 (ER), 2013 WL 842598, F. Supp. 2d (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 6. 2013), the plaintiff claimed that a collection agency placed over 50 calls to the consumer’s home using an automatic dialing machine which hung up “either prior to or as soon as” the consumer, members of the consumer’s household, or the consumer’s voice mail answered the call.  The consumer claimed the calls violated sections 806(6) and 807(11) of the FDCPA because the debt collector failed to disclose its identity.

The court concluded that the consumer stated a claim under § 806(6) and reasoned that “common sense dictates that Defendant did not provide ‘meaningful disclosure of [its] identity,’ as required by § [806(6)].”

The court also held that the consumer sufficiently pled a claim under § 807(11), because the debt collector’s calls constitute “communications” under the FDCPA requiring sufficient disclosure that the call is in fact from a debt collector.   The court reasoned that “to interpret the FDCPA as not covering calls that are disconnected prior to or as soon as the receiving party picks up the phone would permit debt collectors to escape liability by calling consumers however often they wish and simply hanging up as soon as the consumer answers the phone.”

If a debt collector is found to have violated the FDCPA, it may be liable to the consumer victim for up to $1,000.00 in statutory damages, plus actual damages (for example pain and suffering) and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:

If a debt collector calls you and repeatedly hangs up before the call is answered, take pictures of your caller id and do whatever you can to document the timing and frequency of the hang ups. Show the pictures or other evidence to an experienced consumer protection lawyer and see if you have a case.

If you need help settling or defending a debt collection law suit, stopping harassing debt collectors or suing a debt collector, contact us today to see what we can do for you.

The Law Offices of Robert J. Nahoum, P.C
(845) 232-0202
www.nahoumlaw.com
info@nahoumlaw.com

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