Mr. Michael J. Spinella
Dear Mr. Spinella:
Thank you for your letter containing a series of questions concerning the applicability of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("Act") to the practices of Capitol Credit Services Inc.
You first ask whether a debt collector can request full payment in telephone conversations with debtors or in dunning letters, when in fact the collector knows that the agency will in fact accept partial payment.
A collector may in fact ask for full payment due. Deception arises when, in the course of collection, a debt collector represents to a consumer that the collector may only accept full payment when, in fact, partial payments are also accepted. For example, if a consumer suggests partial payment and the collector, knowing that the agency will accept partial payment, represents that the agency will accept only full payment, the collector will have violated Section 807 (10) of the Act.
You next ask whether the use of the name Capitol Credit Services, Inc. is a violation of Section 807 (16) of the Act. You state that Capitol Credit Services is a collection agency - not a credit bureau. Section 807 (16) of the Act prohibits a false representation or implication by a collection agency that a debt collector operates or is employed by a consumer reporting agency as defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FDCPA staff commentary also states that only a bona fide consumer reporting agency may use such terms as "Credit Bureau", "Credit Bureau Collection Agency", "Central Credit Control", "Credit Bureau Rating Inc." or "National Debtors Rating". The use of these names clearly suggest to the consumer that a consumer reporting agency (credit bureau) is contacting the consumer. In my judgment the use of the name Capitol Credit Services does not suggest to the consumer that your firm is a credit bureau. Therefore, use of the name is not a violation of Section 807 (16).
Finally, you ask whether a "pre-collection letter" sent by a business owned by you that is separate and apart from your collection agency violates Section 812 of the Act. You also state that you are furnishing a sample pre-collection letter. However, the sample was not enclosed. I am enclosing two informal staff opinions that address the use pre-collection letters vis-a-vis the Act.(1)
I trust these staff opinions will provide you with the necessary guidance.(2)
This is an informal staff opinion that represents the present enforcement position of the Commission's staff. As such, it is not binding upon the Commission.
Roger J. Fitzpatrick
1. Letter to Basil J. Mezines April 27, 1982, and letter to Henry A. Sullivan, Esq. February 21, 1984.
2. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act staff commentary, p. 50109, also addresses the use of pre-collection letters and whether such letters violate Section 812 of the Act.