584 F.3d 1350 (11th Cir. 2009), 08-17006, Edwards v. Niagara Credit Solutions, Inc.
|Citation:||584 F.3d 1350|
|Opinion Judge:||CARNES, Circuit Judge:|
|Party Name:||Brenda EDWARDS, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. NIAGARA CREDIT SOLUTIONS, INC., a New York corporation, Defendant-Appellant.|
|Attorney:||Michael D. Robl, Thomerson, Spears & Robl, LLC, Decatur, GA, for Defendant-Appellant. Kris Skaar, Skaar & Feagle, LLP, Marietta, GA, James Marvin Feagle, Skaar & Feagle, LLP, Decatur, GA, for Edwards.|
|Judge Panel:||Before CARNES, FAY and ALARC|
|Case Date:||October 14, 2009|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit|
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
In an oft-repeated statement from the Vietnam War, an unidentified American military officer reputedly said that " we had to destroy the village to save it." 1 That oxymoronic explanation may be apocryphal, but the debt collection agency in this case offers up much the same logic to explain why it violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: it was necessary to violate the Act in order to comply with the Act.
Brenda Edwards owed money to the Consumer Shopping Network. Her past due account was assigned to Niagara Credit Solutions, Inc. for collection. Niagara is a debt collection agency subject to the provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § § 1692-1692p, et seq. It attempts to collect debts by sending letters and making phone calls to debtors.
As part of its collection efforts, Niagara left over a dozen messages on Edwards' answering machine from July through October 2007. In September 2007, Niagara left a pre-recorded message on her machine stating: " This is an important message for Edwards Brenda. [sic] Please return this message at 1-800-381-0416, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. eastern standard time. It is important that you reach our office." The next month Niagara left another message on her answering machine: " This message is intended for Brenda Edwards. Please contact Jennifer [last name not clear] at 1-800-381-0416, my extension is 220. When returning my call have your file number available, it's 1250740."
At the time of those events Niagara had a well-defined policy about messages that it left on debtors' answering machines. That policy was to: leave a message asking the debtor to call back about an important matter; provide Niagara's phone number; supply the real first name of the person calling on behalf of Niagara; and give any reference number assigned to the account. Niagara purposefully left out of the messages any information disclosing that they were from Niagara Credit Solutions, Inc. or a debt collector or that the call had been made for the purpose of collecting a debt. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act specifically requires that a debt collector disclose in all communications with a debtor that the message is from a debt collector. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(11). Niagara deliberately chose not to comply with that requirement because it feared that doing so would risk violating another provision of the Act, which generally forbids an agency from communicating about the debt with a third party. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(b). It was...
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