Under the law, it’s not only the number of times a debt collector calls that matters. It is also how often they call. Multiple calls without leaving a message isn’t considered harassment, but attempting to speak with you within 7 days of a telephone conversation is.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) protect you from an unreasonable number of debt collection calls. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Debt Collection Rule specifies how many calls are too many.
Does the TCPA restrict certain types of debt collection calls?
Yes, it does. This law strictly limits pre-recorded messages, texts, and robocalls that:
- Are made without your prior written consent to the business.
- Are made between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
- Do not provide the name of the caller and identify the business.
- Do not provide a contact phone number or address
- Do not provide an automatic opt-out mechanism.
Therefore, the first call of this type that you receive is one too many and constitutes harassment.
How many times can a debt collector call before it’s harassment?
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from engaging in conduct that has the natural consequence of harassing, oppressing, or abusing you. The Act recognizes that making your phone ring repeatedly or continuously in order to annoy, harass, or abuse you to be a violation of this prohibition. This conduct is also prohibited by the debt collection statutes of many states.
Under the CFPB’s new Debt Collection Rule, debt collectors are presumed to have violated the law if they call you about a particular debt:
- More than seven times in seven days
- Within seven days of a phone conversation about the debt
If you have more than one debt, debt collectors may call you seven times in seven days about each debt. Additionally, because this rule only applies to telephone calls, they can contact you via text messages, emails, social media, and in person. There are, though, other protections covering these forms of communication.
How Can You Identify Harassment by a Debt Collector?
In addition to the frequency rules that relate to how many calls may be made by debt collectors, there are clear guidelines regarding harassment during calls. These include:
- Repetitious calls that intentionally annoy, harass, or aim to abuse you or anyone else who answers your phone
- Profane or obscene language
- Threats of violence or an intention to harm you
- Calling you without identifying who they are
Additional guidance comes from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the governmental agency responsible for enforcing the FDCPA. The FTC defines the terms “continuously” and “repeatedly” in its regulations. “Repeatedly” is defined as “calling with excessive frequency under the circumstances,” and “continuously” means “a series of collection calls, one right after another.”
The application of these definitions and a determination of whether a debt collector has violated the prohibition against repeated or continuous calls requires a case-by-case analysis and depends on the totality of the circumstances. In determining whether a debt collector’s frequent calls rise to the level of “repeated,” “continuous,” “annoying,” or “harassing,” courts will look at all of the surrounding circumstances including both the volume and pattern of the calls.
Here are some factors that a judge may consider when deciding whether a debt collector “repeatedly and continuously” called to harass you:
- Calls after receiving a cease and desist request
- Calls after learning you have an attorney
- Calls to your work phone
- Hostile or threatening calls
- Repeated back-to-back calls in a short period of time
- Calls that violate other provisions of the TCPA or FDCPA
What are my options if a collector harasses me?
The Debt Collection Rule states that if debt collectors call debtors more often than allowed, they are violating the law. So, if you are being harassed with repeated or continuous calls by debt collectors, you probably have legal remedies available to you under the FDCPA or TCPA. Contact our experienced debt collection harassment team today to set up a consultation to determine your legal options. You can complete our online form or call us at 475-277-2200.
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