When Telephone Calls are Harassment

The number of telephone calls to a consumer by itself will not normally be evidence of harassment or oppressive conduct by a debt collector. For example in Tucker v. CBE Group, Inc, 2010 WL 1849034 (M.D. Fla. 2010), the debt collector called a home telephone number 57 times and up to seven times is a single day.  The court found this not to violate the FDCPA, because the debt collector never spoke to Plaintiff, was never notified that the debtor could not be reached at said number, and was never notified to stop calling. Along these same lines, in Udell v. Kansas Counselors, Inc., 313 F. Supp. 2d 1135 (D. Kan. 2004), the court found no violation where the debt collector made four automated phone calls over seven days and did not leave any messages. But, in Fausto v. Credigy Services Corp., 598 F. Supp. 2d 1049 (N.D. Cal. 2009), 90 phone calls to the consumer was possibly a violation when the content of the calls was harassing, callers failed to identify themselves, allowed the phone to ring continually, and called back immediately after consumer hung up.

The above cases demonstrate that the number of phone calls alone do not generally constitute harassment. It is the actions and behavior that accompany the phone calls that will cause a finding of harassment.  For example in Bingham v. Collection Bureau, Inc., 505 F. Supp. 864 (D.C.N.D. 1989), the court found that a call pattern of four days of calls followed by four days of no calls, when the debtor did not ask for the calls to stop, was not harassment; but, one occurance of a call back immediately after the consumer terminated a call is harassment.

Examples of actions during telephone calls that have lead the court to find violations of the FDCPA:

Threats of garnishment accompanied by demands for overnight sending of payments, and calls to consumer’s work place after requests to not call. Fox v. Citicorp Credit Services, Inc., 15 F. 3d 1507 (C.A. 9 Ariz.).

Failing to identify ones self as a debt collector and that the purpose of the call is to collect a debt. Costa v. National Action Financial Services, 634 F. Supp. 2d 1069 (E.D. Cal. 2007).

Debt collector continued to call consumer after she asked not to be called and had repeatedly refused to pay the debt. Gilroy v. Ameriquest Mortg. Co., 632 F. Supp. 2d 132 (D.N.H. 2009).

Making 54 calls to consumer at work and leaving 24 messages on work answering machine. Sanchez v. Client Services, Inc., 520 F. Supp. 2d 1149 (N.D. Cal. 2007).

Making comments to elderly consumer regarding her age, mental acuity and activity, and calling after being told not to. Chiverton v. Federal Financial Group, Inc., 399 F. Supp. 2d 96 (D. Conn. 2005).

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