Brown v. Van Ru Credit Corp.

File Name15a1252p.06; Case No. 15-1323, U.S. Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit (Oct. 22, 2015)
A voicemail by a student loan credit collection agency to a business owned by someone who owes student loan debt which simply provides the name of the caller, a reference number and the creditor's name, and which requests someone from the payroll department to return the call to a specified number, is not a "communication" which attempts to collect a debt and does violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. Section 1692c(b) even though the voicemail is heard by an employee.
Procedural context:
Student loan debtor sued student loan credit collection agency claiming that a voicemail to the business owned by the debtor violated the FDCPA in two ways and also violated two Michigan state statutes. The collection agency filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings which the district court granted. The debtor also sought leave to amend his complaint which was denied. The district court declined to exercise jurisdiction over the state law claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed upholding the district court's finding that the voicemail was not a prohibited communication as it did not seek to collect a debt. One judge dissented on the grounds that she would have allowed discovery to be conducted.
Student loan collection agency left voicemail at business owned by student loan debtor. Only prior contact with the debtor was one letter. Voicemail was heard by employee. Voicemail left name of caller, company for which she worked, reference number, telephone number and requested someone from "payroll department" to return her call. District court and court of appeals both found that the voicemail was not a prohibited communication as it did not "imply the existence of a debt". Since the voicemail effectively just sought a return call it did not violate the FDCPA. Sixth Circuit joined Tenth Circuit as only two circuit courts of appeal to address the issue of the definition of a communication under Section 1692c(b) of the FDCPA. The Sixth Circuit found the Tenth Circuit reasoning to be persuasive.
Rogers and Donald, Circuit Court Judges, and Rose, District Judge, sitting by designation.

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