Collecting debt can sometimes feel like a delicate balancing act; debt collectors must navigate challenging situations with precision and care. Getting a consumer on the phone to discuss their account can be difficult, especially considering the concern of potential Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) violations for calling too often. While that is true to an extent, a recent North Carolina case highlights that reasonable calling is still permitted despite general inconvenience or annoyance to the consumer.
In Brayton v. Alltran Financial, LP, 21-309 (W.D. N.C. 2023), the consumer alleged that a debt collector violated the FDCPA by calling the consumer 14 times in 22 days. In response, the debt collector asked the court to issue a judgment in its favor because this call volume is reasonable and did not violate the FDCPA.
The court agreed, and noted the following in its order granting Summary Judgment in favor of the debt collector:
- All 14 calls went unanswered, so at no point did the consumer ask the defendant to stop calling.
- Once the consumer answered and asked the collector to stop, the account was put in a “cease” status, and no other attempts were made to contact the consumer.
- The FDCPA was intended to address “abusive, deceptive, and
unfair debt collection practices,” not eliminate reasonable and legal debt
- Whether the calls may have inconvenienced or bothered the
consumer is not material to the analysis; and
- [T]he FDCPA does not shield consumers from the “inconvenience and embarrassment that are natural consequences of debt collection.
Read the full Order here.
Although the telephone calls, in this case, preceded Reg F, the case is still a breath of fresh air for the collections industry. It's important to remember that the 7-in-7 rule in Reg F is a presumption, so we still need cases to show what might, or might not be, presumed reasonable. This case illustrates that collectors can still make their calls and be reasonably persistent in contacting consumers. While this may seem like a minor victory, small wins are big wins in today’s debt collection landscape, and this is surely a case to keep in your defense files.