When Are Too Many Collection Calls Considered Harassment
Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Many people contact us to complain that they are getting a high volume of calls from a collector, and they believe it is harassment. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act states that a collector may not cause a telephone to ring repeatedly with the intent to harass, annoy or abuse the person at the called number. (15 U.S.C. 1692d(5)). When on a campaign of calls, collectors will always defend their actions by claiming that there is no intent on harassing, but rather they are attempting to contact the debtor. However, the calls multiply, and can come a few times or more daily. So, when are the calls considered harassment?
The first factor to consider is the overall quantity of calls. Is it one a day or a week? Or, is it multiple calls throughout the day. Are they close in time to each other or spread out. Many courts that have tackled this issue have found that one or even two calls in a day are not enough to be deemed harassment. Collectors claim that they have no intent on harassing - they just are trying to catch the consumer at home. However, when the calls turn into a high volume, it does not matter so much what the collector intends. In certain situations, the multitude of calls can be of such frequency that it should reasonably be expected to be harassing, and therefore is deemed harassment under the FDCPA.
However, collectors can still get away with multiple calls in a single day. If the collector calls once in the morning, once mid-day, and once in the evening, they can make a strong argument that there was no harassment as they spaced out the calls to try to see if the consumer was home at different times of the day. What if the calls all came within one hour though? That would indeed be considered more towards harassing conduct.
Another factor that may be considered in determining whether the volume of calls is harassment would be whether there had been any previous responses to the collector calls. If the collector makes multiple calls, but never gets an answer, then it may be harder to prove the calls are an intent to harass than if the calls are answered. If the consumer speaks to the collector and tells the collector that they do not have any current income, that they don't expect income, that they are disabled, or even outright refuses to pay the debt, then the continued calls to the consumer after that may become harassing. After all, if a collector is advised on one day that the consumer is unemployed and does not have any money to pay the debt, then 3 calls the next day were entirely unnecessary and can be construed as nothing more than an attempt to annoy or unnerve the consumer.
A factor may also be whether the collector is calling the correct number. Collection agencies often find themselves dialing the wrong number - either because it's the old phone of the debtor, or they are calling their old residence. Surely the collectors argue that they do not intend to harass the non-debtor. However, how many times has the collector been told that the person they are looking for cannot be found at this number? In a situation where a collector is calling a non-debtor multiple times, and has been warned that they are calling the wrong number, even the person at the called number who is not a debtor has rights under the FDCPA.
When you're being pursued by debt collectors, you have rights, and we're here to help. SmithMarco, P.C. has been protecting consumer rights since 2005. If you feel that you're rights have been violated, please contact us for a free case review.