The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) requires that every voice message left by a debt collector tell you that the communication is from a debt collector. The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from telling third parties that you owe a debt. This can create a problem for debt collectors that leave voice messages. On the one hand, the debt collector must disclose that the communication is from a debt collector in the message. But on the other hand, disclosing that the communication is from a debt collector may violate the FDCPA’s prohibition of telling third parties about a debt. Debt collectors often whine about this conundrum.
The recent case of Edwards v. Niagra Credit Solutions, Inc. involved this exact scenario. The debt collector, apparently as a policy, did not disclose that the call was from a debt collector in voice messages. When it was sued under the FDCPA, the debt collector complained that if it left the required notice, it risked violating the part of the FDCPA that prohibits disclosing that a consumer owes a debt to a third party. The judge brushed aside the debt collector’s complaint of being in an impossible position by pointing out that the FDCPA “does not guarantee a debt collector the right to leave answering machine messages” and held that it is not legal to violate one part of the FDCPA in an attempt to comply with another part.