Massachusetts Court Rules Any Call is a “Communication”

If you own a collection agency in Massachusetts, here is important information that will impact your business. A new ruling by the Massachusetts Superior Court states that any call from a creditor to a consumer’s cell phone that goes to voicemail is an official “communication.” In court case Watkins v. Glenn Associates, Inc., the Court held that even if the creditor does not leave a message on the consumer’s voicemail, the creditor’s call counts as one of two permitted calls per week under Massachusetts state law.

In this case, the creditor Glenn Associates  called and spoke with consumer Brent Watkins one time about his student debt and subsequently called back four times during the same seven-day period without either speaking to Watkins or leaving a voicemail message. The Court held that by repeatedly calling Watkins, even without saying anything, Glenn Associates “indirectly conveyed” a demand to speak with Watkins again about the debt. The Court granted summary judgment to Watkins in the case.

As we discussed in a previous blog post titled “Changes in TCPA Rules That Impact Collection Agencies”, compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) regulations is critical to collection agencies. Penalties and fines against a collection agency can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. As a reminder, here are some of the TCPA rules:

  • Residences cannot be called before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Every company must maintain a DNC list (“do-not-call” list) of those who request not to be called.
  • The DNC list must be honored for five years.
  • The company must also abide by the national do-not-call list.
  • Artificial agent and automated recorded calls are prohibited.
  • Text messages to a consumer are considered calls.

BillingTree is committed to helping their clients stay within compliance at all times. If you would like to learn more about compliance issues and how to better meet the regulations, please see Compliance Central: BillingTree’s one-stop resource for timely payment compliance news, information, analysis, tools and templates.