Communicating with someone other than the consumer in an attempt to collect a debt can be
permissible, but it can also be tricky.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act restricts the parties that a debt
collector can speak to regarding a
consumer’s debt—expressly permitting
communications with certain third
parties and prohibiting communications
Adding another layer of complexity
to the issue, some states have laws that
are more restrictive than the FDCPA
concerning communications with third
parties. These elements can make
compliance with the law difficult at
times. In fact, one of the larger areas of
complaints to the Consumer Financial
Protection Bureau concerns improper
Understanding permissible and
impermissible communications with
third parties can help collectors remain
in compliance with all state and federal
The FDCPA allows debt collectors to
speak with particular third parties under
certain circumstances, including:
• The consumer’s spouse.
• The consumer’s parents (if the
consumer is a minor).
• The creditor to whom the debt is
• The attorney of the consumer,
creditor or debt collector.
• A consumer reporting agency (if
otherwise permitted by law).
• The consumer’s guardian, executor
and administrator (including other
individuals authorized to pay debts
from assets of the decedent’s estate).
• The co-debtor, or other person
legally obligated to pay the debt.
Consumer Consent or Court Order
A collector can also receive
permission from a consumer or express
permission from a court to speak with
third parties about a consumer’s debt.
In the case of receiving prior consent
from the consumer, the collector may
want to get it in writing or make a
recording of the authorization if it is
given over the phone. A court can also
authorize a debt collector to speak with a
third party about a consumer’s debt.
Additionally, a debt collector may
contact third parties as needed to carry
out a post-judicial remedy,
such as a judgment.
Debt collectors can
contact third parties
without a court order or
consumer permission to
information about a
consumer. This is
commonly known as
Federal and state laws have specific requirements for communicating with third parties
When skiptracing, collectors have a
limited amount of information they can
request from a third party. Collectors
can only ask for the consumer’s home
address, home telephone number and
place of employment.
Collectors cannot ask for a better
number to reach the consumer at, as this
may not fall under the allowable
information listed above.
The FDCPA permits a collector to
contact a consumer’s place of
employment when trying to obtain
location information. However, special
care should be taken in this instance not
to reveal the consumer’s debt.
The request for location information
can be made via a phone call or a written
communication. When sending a written
communication, collectors should not
convey that they are a third-party debt
collection company. So, for example,
written communications should be sent
on generic letterhead that does not
disclose the name of the collection
It’s also important to keep in mind
that contacting the consumer’s employer
for any reason other than skiptracing is
• The consumer directly gives the debt
collector prior consent;
• The collector has express permission
of a court of competent jurisdiction or
• Contact is reasonably necessary to
effectuate a post-judgment remedy.
Debt collectors should also review
state laws to determine whether
additional restrictions may apply.
While the FDCPA expressly permits
collectors to communicate with a
consumer’s spouse, it does not define the
term “spouse.” Although state laws
By Laura Dadd