A federal district judge in Kansas recently ruled that a voicemail left by a debt collection agency failing to identify itself as a collector did not violate the FDCPA because the plain text of the law states that multiple calls must be made and that “harassment” cannot occur in one call.
The case, Hagler v. Credit World Services, Inc., was before Judge Daniel D. Crabtree in the U.S. District Court of Kansas. The facts of the case are fairly straightforward.
On June 11, 2013, an employee of defendant Credit World Services, called Hagler and spoke to him about an outstanding debt. After some discussion, plaintiff said that he would have to call defendant back. Defendant waited about a month without hearing from plaintiff. On July 9, 2013, the collector called plaintiff again, but plaintiff did not answer. Jackson left plaintiff the following voicemail:
“Hi, this message is for Charles. Please call Bill Jackson at 913-362-3950 when you get a chance. My extension is like 281. Thank you.”
Hagler sued, arguing that the voicemail thrice violated the FDCPA:
- Failed to disclose meaningfully the caller’s identity, in violation of 15 U.S.C. 1692d(6);
- Failed to disclose that a debt collector had left the voicemail, in violation of 15 U.S.C. 1692e(11);
- and used misleading and deceptive language, in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692e.
The plaintiff also claimed that the voicemail was otherwise deceptive and failed to comply with the provisions of the FDCPA.
Both Hagler and Credit World Plaintiff filed cross-motions for summary judgment on all four claims.
Judge Crabtree sided with the collection agency on all counts, granting its request for summary judgment. He wrote that the message did not, indeed, “provide ‘meaningful disclosure’ of its identity as a debt collector under § 1692d(6)” since only the collection representative’s name was given. But Crabtree ruled that a violation requires more than one call.
The judge wrote that the language of the FDCPA Section 1692d(6) prohibits “the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure.” He focused on the pluralization of “calls,” and noted that other district courts have done the same.
As to the allegation that the debt collector failed to provide the “mini-Miranda” warning, the Crabtree ruled that the voicemail was not a debt collection communication under the FDCPA, writing, “in order to ‘convey information regarding a debt,’ a message must ‘expressly reference debt’ or the recipient must be able to infer that the message involved a debt.”
Crabtree also found that the voicemail was not misleading, noting that the collector “merely conveyed his name, phone number, and his desire for plaintiff to call him back.” There was nothing to indicate to the judge that the message was intended to mislead.