Debt Collectors Cannot Engage in Conduct that Harasses a Consumer When Attempting to Collect a Debt

by Adam J Krohn on November 28, 2013

The purpose of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is to stop debt collection practices that are abusive and to protect the consumer.  Under the FDCPA, 15 USC Section 1692d, debt collectors cannot engage in conduct that is meant to harass, oppress, or abuse a person when attempting to collect a debt.  More specifically, debt collectors cannot under this section:

  • Threaten violence or “other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of a person”;
  • Cause the hearer or reader abuse by using obscene or profane language;
  • Publish the names of consumers who have allegedly refused to pay debts;
  • Coerce payment of a debt by advertising its sale;
  • Intend to annoy, abuse, or harass a person by “causing a telephone to ring or engage any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously”; and
  • Place telephone calls that do not disclose the identity of the caller.

In Bassett v. I.C. System, Inc., 715 F.Supp.2d 803 (2010), many of these prohibits acts were conducted by an overly aggressive debt collection agency.  Plaintiff, Michael Basset, alleged that I.C. System violated the FDCPA multiple times.  I.C. System called on October 12, 2008 to collect on a debt, which Bassett made a partial payment on.  After not receiving any further payments, I.C. System called Bassett on December 16, 2008 at 10:30 a.m.  Bassett told I.C. System to call him back.

I.C. System called again on December 17, 2008 at 9:15 a.m. and Bassett told them he was not able to make a payment.  During this call and another that occurred later in the morning Bassett threatened the representatives.  At 4:00 p.m. on the same day Bassett called I.C. System and threatened legal action to have the I.C. System associate fired.

On December 18, 2008, I.C. System tried to call Bassett several times in attempts to collect on the debt.  Bassett claimed, and I.C. System denies, that Bassett informed I.C. System of his financial situation and that he was bipolar and had post-traumatic stress disorders.  Bassett then had his incoming calls blocked.  The phone would not ring but it would display the time, date, and caller’s phone number.

On December 19, 2008 sought legal representation.  He never requested in writing, before or after retaining counsel, that I.C. System stop calling him.  I.C. System also did not know that Basset was represented by counsel until January 16, 2009.  However, between January 3, 2009 and January 16, 2009, thirty-one calls were placed by I.C. System to Bassett’s telephone.

Bassett alleged that I.C. System specifically violated Section 1692d(2) when the debt collector called “him a loser and a disgrace to his country.”  He also alleged that he was called a liar, laughed at, and accused of making excuses so he would not have to pay his debt.  However, while rude, the court found that this language did not meet the level of violating Section 1692d(2).

Bassett also alleged violations of Section 1692d(5), which “prohibits a debt collector from causing a telephone to ring continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass,” because I.C. System made thirty-one collection calls during a time period of twelve day period.  I.C. System claims that because the phone did not ring it did not violate the section.  However, the court found that this argument was without merit since Bassett testified that “he felt abused by receiving these missed calls.”

The content of the calls made by I.C. System, while rude, did not meet the level of violating the FDCPA.  However, the number of calls over a short period of time did as they were made with the intent of annoying, abusing, or harassing the consumer did violate the FDCPA.

If you or a loved one have endured a similar issue, please contact our experienced attorneys here at Krohn and Moss Consumer Law Center have also provided many helpful resources regarding the FDCPA and how debt collectors should act. We have been successfully representing those abused and taken advantage of by debt collectors for years, and have a long list of successful stories to share with you. We offer a FREE CASE REVIEW for you to assess whether we can assist you with your matter. Please do not hesitate to contact us toll free at 1-800-875-3666 or visit our website at

Adam J Krohn
Adam J. Krohn is one of the founding partners of Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center® He has been admitted to practice law in Illinois, Missouri.
Adam J Krohn
Adam J Krohn

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