Debt collectors have used an array of tactics over the years to contact
debtors and compel them to make payments toward debt. As our legal team
at Sulaiman Law Group, LTD. knows all too well, many of these tactics
toe the line of not just human decency, but also federal law established
by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In some cases, some tactics are blatant violations.
When debt collectors violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, consumers
have the right to hold them accountable. Commonly, harassment under the
FDCPA involves debt collectors who misrepresent themselves, make false
or misleading statements, threaten debtors, or make excessive phone calls
with the intent to annoy, among other violations.
While federal laws such as the FDCPA shield consumers against unjust treatment
at the hands of businesses, some states go further in protecting consumer
rights and ensuring that businesses treat them with the decency they deserve.
Minnesota is one state that has passed laws dealing with the interaction
between businesses and consumers, including one law that directly targets
the use of auto dialers. In a direct response to business technology that
utilizes automation to contact consumers, common with telemarketers, the
Minnesota Automatic Dialing-Announcing Devices statute takes a firm approach
to setting boundaries and ensuring these technologies don’t have
free reign to intrude upon the lives of state residents.
Under the ADAD Act, debt collectors and others can potentially be held
liable for actual damages and legal fees if they call a phone line anywhere
- Using an auto dialer
- Without receiving consent from the consumer
- Without having an established business relationship
- Using a prerecorded voice
The highly specifically named Automatic Dialing-Announcing Devices statute
generally prohibits anyone from calling Minnesota phone lines using an
ADAD device, with exception in cases where there is a current business
or personal relationship or:
- Consumers have provided their content to receive the call (or have requested
or authorized the message); or
- A live operator immediately precedes the prerecorded voice and obtains
the consumer’s consent before playing the message.
The law may target the use of automated calls common with telemarketers,
but it also applies to pretty much anyone, including debt collectors and
creditors that use automation and technology to facilitate collections.
This means that in Minnesota, debt collectors who use automatic dialing-announcing
devices could be held liable in cases where
an auto-dialer calls the wrong number, and they do not have a live operator confirm that a consumer consents
to hearing a prerecorded message. The law also requires consumers to pursue
legal action using private claims that limit actions to those which benefit
the public. When consumers are successful, they can recover damages, including
costs of investigation and attorney fees.
Minnesota’s unique law and broad application may mean that debt collectors
will be on the hook when they indiscriminately use auto-dialers to contact
consumers and accidently call the wrong person, but it also sheds light
on evolving legislation that deals with evolving technology and new business
tactics. These types of laws, while sometimes quirky in their effect and
scope, are essential to furthering the rights of consumers who face an
onslaught from businesses that want their money – debt collectors
included. For example, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which
was also passed to regulate telemarketers and others who disturb consumers
with robocalls, prohibits unsolicited text messages.
Although technology helps businesses, it can certainly infringe upon the
rights of consumers and limit their ability to obtain or provide information.
Dealing with automation and technology can also be highly impersonal and,
for many, simply annoying. Taking a look at how consumers are treated
by new technologies and businesses tactics is essential to ensuring that
as business and technologies evolve, so do the laws that regulate them
and prevent them from having unfettered access into our lives.
Sulaiman Law Group, LTD. is a consumer law firm passionate about protecting
the rights of clients throughout Chicago and the state of Illinois. If
you have questions about
consumer law, your rights, or wish to discuss a potential case personal with a member
of our legal team, we invite you to schedule a case consultation.
Contact us today to get started.