Sister collection agencies have received a large fine after sending millions of text messages to consumers for debts owed. Under the law, expressed consumer consent is needed before texts are sent. California consumers can avoid these types of debt collection practices and stop creditor harassment.

Debt collection agencies have went to text messaging consumers due to faster communication. Consumers are usually reluctant to answer collector phone calls or direct mail due to their adverse financial situation. The text messaging increases the likelihood of a response from the consumer since many check their messages on a regular basis. Even though this way of contacting consumers may be viewed as easier and more efficient, it may not necessarily be legal.

The sister companies involved allegedly sent out text messages to debtors’ friends and family. In addition, the companies also sent messages to others who were not even acquainted with the debtor. The Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement and charged the companies, National Attorney Collection Services and National Attorney Services, $1 million in fines.

In the settlement, it is mandatory that the companies receive clear consent from the consumers, including a signature, before any text messages are sent out to their phones. As required by the Federal Trade Commission, California creditors may not send out text messages to a person’s phone unless the debtor has consented. In a recent amendment by the Federal Trade Commission, the expressed consent from a debtor also includes computer dialed calls and prerecorded calls in an effort to stop creditor harassment.

Source: verdict.justia.com, Debt Collecting by Text: Why this practice should be prohibited absent express consumer consent, Anita Ramasastry, Oct. 22, 2013