People know that when they owe any amount of debt, a debt collector may call them. While these phone calls are not usually welcome, they are, if nothing else, at least expected. However, technology today has changed, and debt collectors have more options for contacting debtors. The question these types of options often raise is whether or not it is illegal for debt collectors to text individuals.
So, if a debt collector has tried to collect on debt by text, are they breaking the law? The answer is not yet clear. Advanced technology has created a number of gray areas in the law, and texts regarding debt collection fall into that category.
Laws Regarding Texts Collecting on Debt
Debt collectors have many laws they must follow. Both the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) outline the rules debt collectors must follow when they are trying to recover a debt.
Under these laws, debt collectors must indicate that they are a debt collector any time they communicate with a person. This rule holds true even when the debt collector is communicating with a third party. Debt collectors must also state that they are trying to collect on a debt any time they send any form of communication. However, it is unlawful for debt collectors to discuss the nature of the debt with a third party.
For example, a debt collector may send a text to someone saying that they are from ABC Debt Collection Corporation and that they are trying to recover a debt from a debtor. If they know they are sending the text to the borrower themselves, they may also discuss the nature of the debt, such as when it was incurred and the amount. If the debt collector is texting a third party, on the other hand, they only have to state that they are texting on behalf of ABC Debt Collection Corporation and that they are trying to recover a debt from a certain person. They cannot provide any information other than this, such as the type or amount of the debt.
These laws are fairly straightforward when debt collectors are calling people over the phone, or sending them communication through the mail. When it comes to texting people, there are a number of unique issues that are raised that could indicate the debt collector is breaking the law.
Issues Raised when Texting Over Debt Collection
Attempting to collect on a debt becomes very tricky when it does via text messaging.
Text messages are typically very short, with some carriers placing a limit of 160 characters, while some provide a much larger limit of 1600 characters. Still, others set limits at 70 characters. In some instances, this could make it impossible for a debt collector to identify themselves, the company they work for, and other information with such limits on the number of characters.
The other challenge that comes with texting debtors to collect on a debt is that there really is no way to ensure the text is being sent to the right person. People change cell phones quite frequently and, when they do, they sometimes change their number as well. If a debt collector sends a text message to the wrong person, they have inadvertently broken the law because they have wrongfully notified a third party about the debt.
Even when a debt collector is certain that they have the right phone number, many people also share cell phones with family members or even roommates. When this is the case and a debt collector says too much about a debt, they may again inadvertently tell a third party about the debt and break the law.
Sending text messages regarding a debt is clearly fraught with issues. The issue is not widespread in Florida just yet and hopefully, it never becomes an issue. A California debt collection company was fined $1 million for violating the FDCPA after sending text messages regarding a debt to a customer. That news story may just be enough to deter other debt collection companies from making similar moves.
Laws on Debt Collection Communication
Although there may not be any specific law governing debt collection and text messages, there are other very clear laws that dictate how and when debt collectors may contact you. These laws are firm and hold true regardless of whether a debt collector is calling you on the phone or via text message.
The law on debt collection communication states:
- Debt collectors can only attempt to contact you between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. in your own local time zone, even if they are calling from outside of that zone.
- Debt collectors must inform you that they are a debt collector.
- Debt collectors cannot reveal certain aspects of your debt to any other third party, with the exception of your attorney and your spouse.
- They cannot contact you repeatedly with the intention to harass you or annoy you into paying the debt.
- If a debt collector knows you have an attorney, they are only allowed to contact your lawyer. They are not allowed to contact you directly.
- Debt collectors cannot use profane or abusive language, threaten you, or claim they will take legal action when they have no intention of doing so.
- If you send a debt collector a letter stating that you want them to stop contacting you, they must comply with your request. A letter will not prevent debt collectors from taking legal action.
One of the best ways to stop debt collectors from contacting you is to hire a debt defense lawyer.
Our Florida Debt Defense Lawyers Can Help with Your Case
If debt collectors have called you repeatedly, spoken to a third party about your debt, or taken any other illegal actions, our Fort Lauderdale, FL debt defense lawyers are here to help. At Loan Lawyers, we know when debt collectors have violated the law, and we will hold them accountable when they do. Call us today at (954) 807-1361 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation so we can advise you of your options.
Loan Lawyers has helped over 5,000 South Florida homeowners and consumers with their debt problems, we have saved over 2,000 homes from foreclosure, eliminated more than $100,000,000 in mortgage principal and consumer debt, and have recovered over $10,000,000 on behalf of our clients due to bank, loan servicer, and debt collector violations.
Contact us for a free legal consultation and find out more about our money-back guarantee on credit card debt buyer lawsuits, and how we may be able to help you.