With the use of social media on the rise, more and more businesses are turning to Facebook and other social media sites to aid in their advertising. The collection industry is no different. Recently a case was found in which a collector reached out to a debtor by sending a message through Facebook. Can a collector do this or is this considered a violation under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”)?
As a result of the FDCPA being written in the 1970s and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) written in the 1990s, this is a difficult question to answer. Since these statutes were enacted, technology has blurred the lines of acceptable conduct pursuant to the FDCPA. Most consumers use cell phones and have access to the internet and social media sites at all times. Unfortunately, the laws have not expanded yet to take into account this growing use of technology.
The Fair Trade Commission, (“FTC”) however, believes that the laws governing the FDCPA and TCPA are written in a way that the consumer is protected under the statute regardless of the medium a collection agency uses to collect a debt. In other words, a collector must still follow the letter of the law in its collection efforts even if it uses Facebook or other social media sites to reach out to the debtor. For example, a collector who contacts a debtor on one of these sites must identify itself when making a friend request; a collector cannot contact the debtor’s “friends” or attempt to make “mutual friends”; a collector cannot post anything about the debtor on the debtor’s message board. The FTC also says it is keeping a close eye on the growing trend of social media and will continue to monitor it as it has been over the past several years.
While there have been cases in which collection agencies contacted debtors directly through Facebook, regulators and trade groups collectively agree that communicating with debtors on these social sites is not okay. However using these sites as a means of gathering information about a debtor as a collection tactic is allowed. Consumers use Facebook and other social media sites to post personal information about themselves, so collectors feel that information should be “fair game”.
lf you feel your rights have been violated by a collector through misuse of a social media site or in any way pursuant to the FDCPA contact SmithMarco P.C. for a free case review. SmithMarco has been protecting consumer rights since 2005.