One of the quickest ways to contact consumers is by calling them. Unlike a letter or text message, a telephone conversation can provide an assured connection with the consumer. While the ability to connect quickly benefits accounts receivable management companies, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act states that causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously is a form of harassment and violates Section 806 of the act.

Armed with this information, debt collectors are faced with an important question: How many phone calls can be made before they are considered harassment?

Unfortunately, the FDCPA does not provide much in the way of an answer to this question. It neither defines the terms “repeatedly” or “continuously,” nor does it set forth a specific number of calls that constitute harassment. That’s why it’s difficult for debt collectors to determine exactly what constitutes calling a consumer in a repeated or continuous manner in violation of the act. Fortunately, the courts and state law have provided some guidance as to what may qualify as harassment.

In cases where the court is called on to determine whether the frequency of a debt collector’s calls violate the FDCPA, it tends to look at the specific facts of the case. There are also other factors that the court considers when making its decision, such as the volume, pattern and frequency of contacts and attempted contacts, whether calls were made multiple times in a day and whether the consumer requested the collector stop calling. However, this list is not exhaustive and there are other factors that the court considers as well.

In addition to complying with the FDCPA, debt collectors must also comply with the law of the state where the consumer resides. A handful of states have established call frequency requirements that are more definitive than the FDCPA. Debt collectors should ensure they have standardized policies and procedures related to call frequency, incorporating any relevant state requirements.

For example, one state does not allow a debt collector to communicate with any particular person more than once per week or a total of three times during any 30-day period unless requested to do so by the person.

ACA SearchPoint document #2333, Frequency of Collection Calls: What Constitutes Harassment, explores call frequency under the FDCPA, including an analysis of court cases and a list of related state laws.

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