UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
March 20, 1998
Mr. Walter D. LeVine, P.A.
Dear Mr. LeVine:
Reference is made to your letter of December 24, 1997, concerning a "Telewire Electronic Message" sent by your client, a telecommunications company, to consumer-debtors. The facts are as stated in your letter and our letter of February 7, 1989 to which you refer. The question is whether your client is covered by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) (copy enclosed).
In order for a service provided by your client to fall within the scope of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, your client must be covered, i.e., it must be a "debt collector" under Section 803(6). That Section defines a "debt collector" as someone who "... regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another" (emphasis mine). As part of your client's additional service to debt collection agencies or credit providers, it proposes to sent a message to alleged debtors. The purpose of the message is two-fold: first, to alert recipients of the letter to a 'telegram marked for voice delivery" left in their names at an 800 number, and second, to obtain recipients' telephone numbers so that they can be contacted by a creditor or collector in connection with the collection of debts allegedly owed by them to third parties. To the extent that the letter serves a collection function (albeit an indirect collection function), which we believe it does, this additional service brings your client within the coverage of the FDCPA.
Since your client would be covered by the Act, its collection communications would have to comply with the Act. Among other things, this means that the letter referred to above must disclose that your client is attempting to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose, in accordance with Section 807(11) of the FDCPA. The notice required by Section 809 of the FDCPA would also have to be sent, if the letter is the initial communication with the consumer regarding collection of the debt.
I hope this responds to your inquiry.
John F. LeFevre