Definition of Consumer
For communications with a consumer or third party in connection with the collection of a debt, the term consumer is defined to include the borrower's spouse, parent (if the borrower is a minor), guardian, executor, or administrator.
When, Where, and with Whom Communication Is Permitted
Communicating with Consumers
A debt collector may not communicate with a consumer at any unusual time (generally before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. in the consumer's time zone) or at any place that is inconvenient to the consumer, unless the consumer or a court of competent jurisdiction has given permission for such contacts. A debt collector may not contact the consumer at his or her place of employment if the collector has reason to believe the employer prohibits such communications.
If the debt collector knows that the consumer has retained an attorney to handle the debt and can easily ascertain the attorney's name and address, all contacts must be with that attorney, unless the attorney is unresponsive or agrees to allow direct communication with the consumer.
Ceasing Communication with Consumers
When a consumer refuses, in writing, to pay a debt or requests that the debt collector cease further communication, the collector must cease all further communication, except to advise the consumer that
- The collection effort is being stopped
- Certain specified remedies ordinarily invoked may be pursued or, if appropriate, that a specific remedy will be pursued
- Mailed notices from the consumer are official when they are received by the debt collector
Communicating with Third Parties
The only third parties that a debt collector may contact when trying to collect a debt are
- The consumer
- The consumer's attorney
- A consumer reporting agency (if permitted by local law)
- The creditor
- The creditor's attorney
- The debt collector's attorney
The consumer or a court of competent jurisdiction may, however, give the debt collector specific permission to contact other third parties. In addition, a debt collector who is unable to locate a consumer may ask a third party for the consumer's home address, telephone number, and place of employment (location information). The debt collector must give his or her name and must state that he or she is confirming or correcting information about the consumer's location. Unless specifically asked, the debt collector may not name the collection firm or agency or reveal that the consumer owes any debt.
No third party may be contacted more than once unless the collector believes that the information from the first contact was wrong or incomplete and that the third party has since received better information, or unless the third party specifically requests additional contact.
Contact with any third party by postcard, letter, or telegram is allowed only if the envelope or content of the communication does not indicate the nature of the collector's business.
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