Debt Collection and Facebook

With the use of social media on the rise, more and more Justice _scalebusinesses are turning to Facebook
and other social media sites to aid in their advertising.  The
collection industry is no different.  Recently a case was
found in which a collector reached out to a debtor by sending a
message through Facebook.  Can a collector do this or is this
considered a violation under the
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

(“FDCPA”)?   

As a result of the
FDCPA
being written in the 1970s and the Telephone Consumer
Protection Act (“TCPA”) written in the 1990s, this is a difficult
question to answer.  Since these statutes were enacted,
technology has blurred the lines of acceptable conduct pursuant to
the FDCPA.  Most consumers use cell phones and have access to
the internet and social media sites at all times. 
Unfortunately, the laws have not expanded yet to take into
account this growing use of technology. 

The Fair Trade Commission, (“FTC”) however, believes that the
laws governing the FDCPA and TCPA are written in a way that the
consumer is protected under the statute regardless of the medium a
collection agency uses to collect a debt.  In other words, a
collector must still follow the letter of the law in its collection
efforts even if it uses Facebook or other social media sites to
reach out to the debtor.  For example, a collector who
contacts a debtor on one of these sites must identify itself when
making a friend request; a collector cannot
contact the debtor’s “friends
” or attempt to make “mutual
friends”; a collector cannot post anything about the debtor on the
debtor’s message board.  The FTC also says it is keeping a
close eye on the growing trend of social media and will continue to
monitor it as it has been over the past several
years.     
   
While there have been cases in which collection agencies contacted
debtors directly through Facebook, regulators and trade groups
collectively agree that communicating with debtors on these social
sites is not okay.  However using these sites as a means of
gathering information about a debtor as a collection tactic is
allowed.  Consumers use Facebook and other social media sites
to post personal information about themselves, so collectors feel
that information should be “fair game”.
 
lf you feel your rights have been violated by a collector through
misuse of a social media site or in any way pursuant to the FDCPA
contact SmithMarco P.C. for a free case
review.  SmithMarco has been
protecting consumer rights since 2005.