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Comment for 1006.14 — Harassing, Oppressive, or Abusive Conduct

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14(a) In general.

1. General prohibition. Section 1006.14(a), which implements FDCPA section 806 (15 U.S.C. 1692d), sets forth a general standard that prohibits a debt collector from engaging in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. The general prohibition covers the specific conduct described in § 1006.14(b) through (h), as well as any conduct by the debt collector that is not specifically prohibited by § 1006.14(b) through (h) but the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. Such conduct can occur regardless of the communication media the debt collector uses, including in-person interactions, telephone calls, audio recordings, paper documents, mail, email, text messages, social media, or other electronic media, even if not specifically addressed by § 1006.14(b) through (h). The following example illustrates the rule.

i. Assume that, in connection with the collection of a debt, a debt collector sends a consumer numerous, unsolicited text messages per day for several consecutive days. The consumer does not respond. Assume further that the debt collector does not communicate or attempt to communicate with the consumer using any other communication medium and that, by sending the text messages, the debt collector has not violated § 1006.14(b) through (h). Even though the debt collector’s conduct does not violate any specific prohibition under § 1006.14(b) through (h), it is likely that the natural consequence of the debt collector’s text messages is to harass, oppress, or abuse the person receiving the text messages; when such natural consequence occurs, the debt collector has violated § 1006.14(a) and FDCPA section 806.

2. Cumulative effect of conduct. Whether a debt collector’s conduct violates the general standard in § 1006.14(a) may depend on the cumulative effect of the debt collector’s conduct through any communication medium the debt collector uses, including in-person interactions, telephone calls, audio recordings, paper documents, mail, email, text messages, social media, or other electronic media. Depending on the facts and circumstances, conduct that on its own would violate neither the general prohibition in § 1006.14(a), nor any specific prohibition in § 1006.14(b) through (h), nonetheless may violate § 1006.14(a) when such conduct is evaluated cumulatively with other conduct. The following example illustrates the rule as applied to a debt collector who uses multiple communication media to communicate or attempt to communicate with a person.

i. Assume that a debt collector places seven unanswered telephone calls within seven consecutive days to a consumer in connection with the collection of a debt. During this same period, the debt collector also sends multiple additional unsolicited emails about the debt to the consumer. The consumer does not respond. The frequency of the debt collector’s telephone calls during the seven-day period does not exceed the telephone call frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2)(i), so the debt collector is presumed to comply with § 1006.14(b)(1). Assume further that no evidence is offered to rebut the presumption of compliance, such that the debt collector complies with § 1006.14(b)(1). Also assume that, for purposes of this illustrative example only, the frequency of the debt collector’s emails alone does not violate § 1006.14(a). It nevertheless is likely that the cumulative effect of the debt collector’s telephone calls and emails is harassment; when such natural consequence occurs, the debt collector has violated § 1006.14(a) and FDCPA section 806.

14(b) Repeated or continuous telephone calls or telephone conversations.

1. Placing telephone calls repeatedly or continuously. Section 1006.14(b) prohibits a debt collector from, in connection with the collection of a debt, placing telephone calls or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number, and it describes when a debt collector is presumed to have complied with or violated that prohibition. For purposes of § 1006.14(b)(1) through (4), “placing a telephone call” includes conveying a ringless voicemail but does not include sending an electronic message (e.g., a text message or an email) that may be received on a mobile telephone.

14(b)(1) In general.

1. Effect of compliance. A debt collector who complies with § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5) (15 U.S.C. 1692d(5) complies with § 1006.14(a) and FDCPA section 806 (15 U.S.C. 1692d) solely with respect to the frequency of its telephone calls. The debt collector nevertheless could violate § 1006.14(a) and FDCPA section 806 if the natural consequence of another aspect of the debt collector’s telephone calls, unrelated to frequency, is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. See also comment 14(a)–2 regarding the cumulative effect of the debt collector’s conduct.

2. Example. Assume that a debt collector communicates or attempts to communicate with a consumer about a particular debt only by telephone. The debt collector does not exceed either of the telephone call frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2)(i). Under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i), the debt collector is presumed to comply with § 1006.14(b)(1). Assume, further, that no evidence is offered to rebut that presumption of compliance. Pursuant to § 1006.14(b)(1), the debt collector complies with § 1006.14(a) and FDCPA section 806, but only with respect to the frequency of its telephone calls. Assume, however, that one of the debt collector’s telephone calls results in the debt collector leaving a voicemail that contains obscene language. Even though the debt collector does not violate § 1006.14(a) and FDCPA section 806 based solely on the frequency of the telephone calls, the debt collector’s obscene voicemail would violate § 1006.14(a) and (d) and FDCPA section 806 and 806(2) (15 U.S.C. 1692, 1692d(2)).

14(b)(2) Telephone call frequencies; presumptions of compliance and violation.

Paragraph 14(b)(2)(i).

1. Presumption of compliance; examples. Section 1006.14(b)(2)(i) provides that a debt collector is presumed to comply with § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5) (15 U.S.C. 1692d(5)) if the debt collector places a telephone call to a particular person in connection with the collection of a particular debt neither: more than seven times within seven consecutive days (§ 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(A)); nor within a period of seven consecutive days after having had a telephone conversation with the person in connection with the collection of such debt (§ 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(B)). For the presumption of compliance to apply, the debt collector’s telephone call frequencies must not exceed either prong of § 1006.14(b)(2)(i). The telephone call frequencies are subject to the exclusions in § 1006.14(b)(3). In addition, for purposes of § 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(B), the date of the telephone conversation is the first day of the seven-consecutive-day period. The following examples illustrate the rule.

i. On Wednesday, April 1, a debt collector first attempts to communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of a credit card debt by placing a telephone call and leaving a limited-content message. Between Thursday, April 2, and Tuesday, April 7, the debt collector places six more telephone calls to the consumer about the debt, all of which go unanswered. As of Tuesday, April 7, the debt collector has placed seven telephone calls to the consumer in connection with the collection of the credit card debt within the period of seven consecutive days that started on Wednesday, April 1. Assume the debt collector does not place any additional telephone calls about the debt until Wednesday, April 8. Under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i), the debt collector is presumed to comply with § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5).

ii. On Thursday, August 13, a consumer places a telephone call to, and initiates a telephone conversation with, a debt collector regarding a particular debt. Assume that the debt collector does not place a telephone call to the consumer in connection with the collection of that debt again prior to Thursday, August 20. The debt collector is presumed to comply with § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5).

iii. On Tuesday, October 6, a debt collector first attempts to communicate with a particular third party for the purpose of acquiring location information about a consumer by placing a telephone call to that third party. The call is unanswered. The debt collector places up to six more unanswered telephone calls to that third party for the purpose of acquiring location information about the consumer through Monday, October 12. The debt collector is presumed to comply with § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5). See § 1006.10(c) for further guidance concerning when a debt collector is prohibited from communicating with a person other than the consumer for the purpose of acquiring location information.

2. Factors to rebut the presumption of compliance. To rebut the presumption of compliance, it must be proven that a debt collector who did not place a telephone call in excess of either of the telephone call frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2)(i) nevertheless placed a telephone call or engaged a person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number. For purposes of determining whether the presumption of compliance has been rebutted, it is assumed that debt collectors intend the natural consequence of their actions. Comments 14(b)(2)(i)–2.i through .iv provide a non-exhaustive list of factors that may rebut the presumption of compliance. The factors may be considered either individually or in combination with one another (or other non-specified factors). The factors may be viewed in light of any other relevant facts and circumstances and therefore may apply to varying degrees. Factors that may rebut the presumption of compliance include:

i. The frequency and pattern of telephone calls the debt collector places to a person, including the intervals between them. The considerations relevant to this factor include whether the debt collector placed telephone calls to a person in rapid succession (e.g., two unanswered telephone calls to the same telephone number within five minutes) or in a highly concentrated manner (e.g., seven telephone calls to the same telephone number within one day). For example, assume the same facts as in comment 14(b)(2)(i)–1.i, except assume that, after the debt collector placed the first telephone call to the consumer about the credit card debt on Wednesday, April 1, the debt collector placed six additional telephone calls to the consumer about that debt on Friday, April 3. Under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i), the debt collector is presumed to comply with § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5), but the high concentration of telephone calls on Friday, April 3, is a factor that may rebut the presumption of compliance.

ii. The frequency and pattern of any voicemails that the debt collector leaves for a person, including the intervals between them. The considerations relevant to this factor include whether the debt collector left voicemails for a person in rapid succession (e.g., two voicemails within five minutes left at the same telephone number) or in a highly concentrated manner (e.g., seven voicemails left at the same telephone number within one day).

iii. The content of a person’s prior communications with the debt collector. Among the considerations relevant to this factor are whether the person previously informed the debt collector, for example, that the person did not wish to be contacted again about the particular debt, that the person was refusing to pay the particular debt, or that the person did not owe the particular debt. This factor also includes a consumer’s cease communication notification described in § 1006.6(c) and a consumer’s request under § 1006.14(h) that the debt collector not use telephone calls to communicate or attempt to communicate with the consumer. The amount of time elapsed since any such prior communications also may be relevant to this factor.

iv. The debt collector’s conduct in prior communications or attempts to communicate with the person. Among the considerations relevant to this factor are whether, during a prior communication or attempt to communicate with a person, the debt collector, for example, used obscene, profane, or otherwise abusive language (see § 1006.14(d)), used or threatened to use violence or other criminal means to harm the person (see § 1006.14(c)), or called at an inconvenient time or place (see § 1006.6(b)(1)). The amount of time elapsed since any such prior communications or attempts to communicate also may be relevant to this factor.

3. Misdirected telephone calls. Section 1006.14(b)(2)(i) provides that a debt collector is presumed to comply with § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5) (15 U.S.C. 1692d(5)) if the debt collector’s telephone call frequencies do not exceed the telephone call frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2)(i). If, within a period of seven consecutive days, a debt collector attempts to communicate with a particular person by placing telephone calls to a particular telephone number, and the debt collector then learns that the telephone number is not that person’s number, the telephone calls that the debt collector made to that number are not considered to have been telephone calls placed to that person during that seven-consecutive-day period for purposes of § 1006.14(b)(2)(i). For example:

i. Assume that a debt collector first attempts to communicate with a consumer on Monday, and again on Wednesday, by placing one unanswered telephone call to a particular telephone number on each of those days. On Thursday, the debt collector learns that the telephone number belongs to someone else and that the consumer does not answer telephone calls to that number. For purposes of § 1006.14(b)(2)(i), the debt collector has not yet placed any telephone calls to that consumer during that seven-consecutive-day period.

Paragraph 14(b)(2)(ii).

1. Presumption of a violation; examples. Section 1006.14(b)(2)(ii) provides that a debt collector is presumed to violate § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5) (15 U.S.C. 1692d(5)) if the debt collector places a telephone call to a particular person in connection with the collection of a particular debt in excess of either of the telephone call frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2)(i). The telephone call frequencies are subject to the exclusions in § 1006.14(b)(3). The following examples illustrate the rule.

i. On Wednesday, April 1, a debt collector first attempts to communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of a mortgage debt by placing a telephone call and leaving a limited-content message. On each of the next three business days (i.e., on Thursday, April 2, Friday, April 3, and Monday, April 6), the debt collector places two additional telephone calls to the consumer about the debt, all of which go unanswered. On Tuesday, April 7, the debt collector places an additional telephone call to the consumer about the debt. The debt collector has placed a total of eight telephone calls to the consumer about the debt during the seven-day period starting Wednesday, April 1. None of the calls was subject to the exclusions in § 1006.14(b)(3). The debt collector is presumed to violate § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5).

ii. On Tuesday, August 11, a debt collector first attempts to communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of a credit card debt by placing a telephone call to the consumer that the consumer does not answer. On Friday, August 14, the debt collector again places a telephone call to the consumer and has a telephone conversation with the consumer in connection with the collection of the debt. Subject to the exclusions in § 1006.14(b)(3), the debt collector is presumed to violate § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5) if the debt collector places a telephone call to the consumer in connection with the collection of that debt again prior to Friday, August 21.

2. Factors to rebut the presumption of a violation. To rebut the presumption of a violation, it must be proven that a debt collector who placed telephone calls in excess of either of the frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2)(i) nevertheless did not place a telephone call or engage any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number. For purposes of determining whether the presumption of a violation has been rebutted, it is assumed that debt collectors intend the natural consequence of their actions. Comments 14(b)(2)(ii)–2.i through .iv provide a non-exhaustive list of factors that may rebut the presumption of a violation. The factors may be considered either individually or in combination with one another (or other non-specified factors). The factors may be viewed in light of any other relevant facts and circumstances and therefore may apply to varying degrees. Factors that may rebut the presumption of a violation include:

i. Whether a debt collector placed a telephone call to comply with, or as required by, applicable law. For example, assume the same facts as in comment 14(b)(2)(ii)–1.i, except assume that the debt collector placed the final telephone call of the seven-consecutive-day period to inform the consumer of available loss mitigation options in compliance with the Bureau’s mortgage servicing rules under Regulation X, 12 CFR 1024.39(a). The debt collector’s compliance with applicable law is a factor that may rebut the presumption of a violation.

ii. Whether a debt collector placed a telephone call that was directly related to active litigation involving the collection of a particular debt. For example, assume the same facts as in comment 14(b)(2)(ii)–1.ii, except assume that, after the debt collector and the consumer had a telephone conversation about the credit card debt on Friday, August 14, the debt collector placed another telephone call to the consumer before Friday, August 21, to complete a court-ordered communication with the consumer about the debt, or as part of negotiations to settle active debt collection litigation regarding the debt. The direct relationship between the additional telephone call and the active debt collection litigation is a factor that may rebut the presumption of a violation.

iii. Whether a debt collector placed a telephone call in response to a consumer’s request for additional information when the exclusion in § 1006.14(b)(3)(i) for telephone calls made with the consumer’s prior consent given directly to the debt collector did not apply. For example, assume the same facts as in comment 14(b)(2)(ii)–1.ii, except assume that, during the telephone conversation about the credit card debt on Friday, August 14, the consumer told the debt collector that the consumer would like more information about the amount of the debt but that the consumer could not talk at that moment. The consumer ended the telephone call before the debt collector could seek prior consent under § 1006.14(b)(3)(i) to call back with the requested information. The debt collector placed another telephone call to the consumer prior to Friday, August 21, to provide the requested information. The fact that the debt collector placed the additional telephone call in response to the consumer’s request is a factor that may rebut the presumption of a violation.

iv. Whether a debt collector placed a telephone call to convey information to the consumer that, as shown through evidence, would provide the consumer with an opportunity to avoid a demonstrably negative effect relating to the collection of the particular debt, where the negative effect was not in the debt collector’s control, and where time was of the essence. For example, in each of the following three scenarios, assume the same facts as in comment 14(b)(2)(ii)–1.ii, and also assume that:

A. During the telephone conversation about the credit card debt on Friday, August 14, the debt collector and the consumer engaged in a lengthy conversation regarding settlement terms, and, toward the end of the conversation, the telephone call dropped. The debt collector immediately placed an additional telephone call to the consumer to complete the conversation. The fact that the debt collector placed the telephone call to permit the debt collector and the consumer to complete the conversation about settlement terms, which provided the consumer an opportunity to avoid a demonstrably negative effect that was not in the debt collector’s control (i.e., having to repeat a substantive conversation with a potentially different representative of the debt collector) and where time was of the essence (i.e., to prevent the delay of settlement negotiations by seven days) is a factor that may rebut the presumption of a violation.

B. The consumer previously entered into a payment plan with the debt collector regarding the credit card debt. The conditions for the payment plan were set by the creditor, and among those conditions is that only the creditor, in its sole discretion, may approve waivers of late fees. On Monday, August 17, the debt collector learned that the consumer’s payment failed to process, and the applicable grace period was set to expire on Tuesday, August 18. The debt collector placed a telephone call to the consumer on Monday to remind the consumer that a late fee would be applied by the creditor for non-payment unless the consumer made the payment by the next day. The fact that the debt collector placed the telephone call to alert the consumer to the pending penalty, giving the consumer an opportunity to avoid a demonstrably negative effect that was not in the debt collector’s control and where time was of the essence, is a factor that may rebut the presumption of a violation.

C. On Monday, August 17, the debt collector placed a telephone call to the consumer to offer the consumer a “one-time only” discount on the payment of the credit card debt. The debt collector stated that the offer would expire the next day when, in fact, the debt collector could have offered the same or a similar discount through the end of August. Because the negative effect on the consumer was in the debt collector’s control, the discount offer is not a factor that may rebut the presumption of a violation.

14(b)(3) Certain telephone calls excluded from telephone call frequencies.

Paragraph 14(b)(3)(i).

1. Prior consent. Section 1006.14(b)(3)(i) excludes from the telephone call frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2) certain telephone calls placed to a person who gives prior consent. See § 1006.6(b)(4)(i) and its associated commentary for guidance about giving prior consent directly to a debt collector. Nothing in § 1006.14(b)(3)(i) regarding prior consent for telephone call frequencies permits a debt collector to communicate, or attempt to communicate, with a consumer as prohibited by §§ 1006.6(b) and 1006.14(h).

2. Duration of prior consent. For purposes of § 1006.14(b)(3)(i), if a person gives prior consent for additional telephone calls about a particular debt directly to a debt collector, any telephone calls that the debt collector thereafter places to the person about that particular debt do not count toward the telephone call frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2) for a period of up to seven consecutive days. A person’s prior consent may expire before the conclusion of the seven-consecutive-day period. A person’s prior consent expires when any of the following occurs: (1) the person consented to the additional telephone calls for a shorter time period and such time period has ended; (2) the person revokes such prior consent; or (3) the debt collector has a telephone conversation with the person regarding the particular debt.

3. Examples. The following examples illustrate how § 1006.14(b)(3)(i) applies:

i. On Friday, April 3, a debt collector places a telephone call to a consumer. During the ensuing telephone conversation in connection with the collection of a debt, the consumer tells the debt collector to “call back on Monday.” Absent an exception, under § 1006.14(b)(2)(ii), the debt collector would be presumed to violate § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5) (15 U.S.C. 1692d(5)) if the debt collector called the consumer on Monday, April 6, because the additional telephone call would exceed the frequency described in § 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(B). Under § 1006.14(b)(3)(i), however, in the scenario described (and absent any other facts), the debt collector could, pursuant to the consumer’s prior consent, place telephone calls to the consumer on Monday, April 6, and not lose a presumption of compliance with § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5).

ii. Assume the same facts as in the preceding example, except that the consumer does not specify a particular day the debt collector may call back. Assume further that, on Monday, April 6, the debt collector calls the consumer back and has a telephone conversation with the consumer. The exception in § 1006.14(b)(3)(i) does not apply to subsequent telephone calls placed by the debt collector to the consumer, absent additional prior consent from the consumer. For example, if the debt collector, without additional prior consent, placed a telephone call to the consumer on Wednesday, April 8, that telephone call would count toward the telephone call frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2), and, pursuant to § 1006.14(b)(2)(ii), the debt collector would be presumed to violate § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5).

iii. Between Monday, June 1, and Wednesday, June 3, a debt collector places three unanswered telephone calls to a consumer in connection with the collection of a debt. Also on Wednesday, June 3, the debt collector sends the consumer an email message in connection with the collection of the debt. The consumer responds by email on Thursday, June 4, requesting additional information about available repayment options related to the debt and writes, “You can call me at 123-456-7891 to discuss the repayment options.” The debt collector receives the consumer’s prior consent by email on Thursday, June 4, and thereafter places eight unanswered telephone calls to the consumer between Monday, June 8, and Wednesday, June 10. Because the consumer provided prior consent directly to the debt collector, the exclusion in § 1006.14(b)(3)(i) applies to the eight telephone calls placed by the debt collector during the seven-consecutive-day period that began with receipt of the consumer’s consent on Thursday, June 4. Those telephone calls therefore do not count toward the telephone call frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2)(i). However, any telephone calls placed by the debt collector after the end of the seven-day period (i.e., on or after Thursday, June 11) would count toward the telephone call frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2)(i), unless the consumer again gives prior consent directly to the debt collector.

Paragraph 14(b)(3)(ii).

1. Unconnected telephone calls. Section 1006.14(b)(3)(ii) provides that telephone calls placed to a person do not count toward the telephone call frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2)(i) if they do not connect to the dialed number. A debt collector’s telephone call does not connect to the dialed number if, for example, the debt collector receives a busy signal or an indication that the dialed number is not in service. Conversely, a telephone call placed to a person counts toward the telephone call frequencies described in § 1006.14(b)(2)(i) if it connects to the dialed number, unless an exclusion in § 1006.14(b)(3) applies. A debt collector’s telephone call connects to the dialed number if, for example, the telephone call is answered, even if it subsequently drops; if the telephone call causes a telephone to ring at the dialed number but no one answers it; or if the telephone call is connected to a voicemail or other recorded message, even if it does not cause a telephone to ring and even if the debt collector is unable to leave a voicemail.

14(b)(4) Definition.

1. Particular debt. Section 1006.14(b)(2) establishes presumptions of compliance and violation with respect to § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5) (15 U.S.C. 1692d(5)) based on the frequency with which a debt collector places telephone calls to, or engages in telephone conversation with, a person in connection with the collection of a particular debt. Section 1006.14(b)(4) provides that, except in the case of student loan debt, the term particular debt means each of a consumer’s debts in collection. For student loan debt, § 1006.14(b)(4) provides that the term particular debt means all student loan debts that a consumer owes or allegedly owes that were serviced under a single account number at the time the debts were obtained by a debt collector.

i. Placing a telephone call in connection with the collection of a particular debt. Under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(A), if a debt collector places a telephone call to a person and initiates a conversation or leaves a voicemail about one particular debt, the debt collector counts the telephone call as a telephone call in connection with the collection of the particular debt, subject to the exclusions in § 1006.14(b)(3). If a debt collector places a telephone call to a person and initiates a conversation or leaves a voicemail about more than one particular debt, the debt collector counts the telephone call as a telephone call in connection with the collection of each such particular debt, subject to the exclusions in § 1006.14(b)(3). If a debt collector places a telephone call to a person but neither initiates a conversation about a particular debt nor leaves a voicemail that refers to a particular debt, or if the debt collector’s telephone call is unanswered, the debt collector counts the telephone call as a telephone call in connection with the collection of at least one particular debt, unless an exclusion in § 1006.14(b)(3) applies.

ii. Engaging in a telephone conversation in connection with the collection of a particular debt. Under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(B), if a debt collector and a person discuss one particular debt during a telephone conversation, the debt collector has engaged in a telephone conversation in connection with the collection of the particular debt, regardless of which party initiated the discussion about the particular debt, subject to the exclusions in § 1006.14(b)(3). If a debt collector and a person discuss more than one particular debt during a telephone conversation, the debt collector has engaged in a telephone conversation in connection with the collection of each such particular debt, regardless of which party initiated the discussion about the particular debts, subject to the exclusions in § 1006.14(b)(3). If no particular debt is discussed during a telephone conversation between a debt collector and a person, the debt collector counts the conversation as a telephone conversation in connection with the collection of at least one particular debt, unless an exclusion in § 1006.14(b)(3) applies.

2. Examples. The following examples illustrate the rule.

i. A debt collector is attempting to collect a medical debt and two credit card debts (denominated A and B for this example) from the same consumer. Under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(A), a debt collector may count an unanswered telephone call as one telephone call placed toward any one particular debt, even if the debt collector intended to discuss more than one particular debt had the telephone call resulted in a telephone conversation. Therefore, if the debt collector, within a period of seven consecutive days, places a total of 21 unanswered telephone calls, seven of which the debt collector counted as unanswered telephone calls to the consumer in connection with the collection of the medical debt, seven of which the debt collector counted as unanswered telephone calls to the consumer in connection with the collection of credit card debt A, and seven of which the debt collector counted as unanswered telephone calls to the consumer in connection with the collection of credit card debt B, the debt collector is presumed to comply with § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5), even if, for example, the debt collector intended to discuss both credit card debt A and credit card debt B had any of the telephone calls with respect to the credit card debts resulted in a telephone conversation.

ii. A debt collector is attempting to collect a medical debt and a credit card debt from the same consumer. The debt collector places a telephone call to the consumer, intending to discuss both particular debts, but the consumer does not answer, and the telephone call goes to voicemail. The debt collector leaves a limited-content message, as defined in § 1006.2(j). Because the limited-content message does not specifically refer to any particular debt, under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(A), a debt collector may count the voicemail as one telephone call placed toward either of the particular debts, even though the debt collector intended to discuss both particular debts if the telephone call had resulted in a telephone conversation.

iii. A debt collector is attempting to collect a medical debt and a credit card debt from the same consumer. On Monday, November 9, the debt collector places a telephone call to, and engages in a telephone conversation with, the consumer solely in connection with the collection of the medical debt. The debt collector does not place any telephone calls to the consumer in connection with the collection of the credit card debt. Regarding the medical debt, under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(A) and (B) respectively, the debt collector has placed a telephone call to, and has and engaged in a telephone conversation with, the consumer in connection with the collection of the particular debt, unless an exclusion in § 1006.14(b)(3) applies. Regarding the credit card debt, under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(A) and (B) respectively, the debt collector has neither placed a telephone call to, nor engaged in a telephone conversation with, the consumer in connection with the collection of the particular debt.

iv. Assume the same facts as in the preceding example, except that on Monday, November 9, the debt collector engages in a telephone conversation with the consumer in connection with the collection of both the medical debt and the credit card debt. Under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(A) and (B) respectively, the debt collector has placed a telephone call to, and has engaged in a telephone conversation with, the consumer in connection with the collection of both the medical debt and the credit card debt, unless an exclusion in § 1006.14(b)(3) applies.

v. A debt collector is attempting to collect a medical debt and a credit card debt from the same consumer. Beginning on Monday, November 9, and through Wednesday, November 11, the debt collector places two unanswered telephone calls to the consumer which the debt collector counts as telephone calls in connection with the collection of the medical debt, and four unanswered telephone calls to the consumer which the debt collector counts as telephone calls in connection with the collection of the credit card debt. On Thursday, November 12, the debt collector places a telephone call to, and engages in a general telephone conversation with, the consumer, but the debt collector and the consumer do not discuss either particular debt. Under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(A) and (B) respectively, the debt collector may count the November 12 telephone call and ensuing conversation toward either the medical debt or the credit card debt. For example, if the debt collector counts the November 12 telephone call and ensuing conversation toward the collection of only the medical debt, then, during this time period, the debt collector has placed three telephone calls and has had one conversation in connection with the collection of the medical debt, and has placed four telephone calls and has had no conversations in connection with the collection of the credit card debt.

vi. A debt collector is attempting to collect a medical debt and a credit card debt from the same consumer. On Monday, November 9, the debt collector places a telephone call to, and initiates a telephone conversation with, the consumer about the collection of the medical debt. The consumer states that the consumer does not want to discuss the medical debt, and instead initiates a discussion about the credit card debt. Under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(A) and (B) respectively, the debt collector has both placed a telephone call to, and engaged in a telephone conversation with, the consumer in connection with the collection of the medical debt, even though the consumer was unwilling to engage in the discussion initiated by the debt collector regarding the medical debt. Under § 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(A) and (B) respectively, the debt collector has not placed a telephone call to the consumer in connection with the credit card debt, but the debt collector has engaged in a telephone conversation in connection with the collection of the credit card debt, even though the consumer, not the debt collector, initiated the discussion about the credit card debt.

vii. A debt collector is attempting to collect three student loan debts that were serviced under a single account number at the time that they were obtained by a debt collector and that are owed or allegedly owed by the same consumer. All three debts are treated as a single debt for purposes of § 1006.14(b)(2). The debt collector is presumed to comply with § 1006.14(b)(1) and FDCPA section 806(5) if the debt collector places seven or fewer telephone calls within seven consecutive days to the consumer in connection with the collection of the three student loan debts, and the debt collector does not place a telephone call within a period of seven consecutive days after having had a telephone conversation with the consumer in connection with the collection of any one of the three student loan debts, unless an exclusion in § 1006.14(b)(3) applies.

14(h) Prohibited communication media.

14(h)(1) In general.

1. Communication media designations. Section 1006.14(h)(1) prohibits a debt collector from communicating or attempting to communicate with a person in connection with the collection of any debt through a medium of communication if the person has requested that the debt collector not use that medium to communicate with the person. The debt collector may ask follow-up questions regarding preferred communication media to clarify statements by the person. For examples of communication media, see comment 2(d)–1.

2. Specific address or telephone number. Within a medium of communication, a person may request that a debt collector not use a specific address or telephone number. For example, if a person has two mobile telephone numbers, the person may request that the debt collector not use one or both mobile telephone numbers.

3. Examples. The following examples illustrate the prohibition in § 1006.14(h)(1).

i. Assume that a person tells a debt collector to “stop calling” the person. Based on these facts, the person has requested that the debt collector not use telephone calls to communicate with the person and, thereafter, § 1006.14(h)(1) prohibits the debt collector from communicating or attempting to communicate with the person through telephone calls.

ii. Assume that, in response to receipt of either the opt-out procedures described in § 1006.6(d)(4)(ii) or the opt-out notice in § 1006.6(e), a consumer requests to opt out of receiving electronic communications from a debt collector at a particular email address or telephone number. Based on these facts, the consumer has requested that the debt collector not use that email address or telephone number to electronically communicate with the consumer for any debt and, thereafter, § 1006.14(h)(1) prohibits the debt collector from electronically communicating or attempting to communicate with the consumer through that email address or telephone number.

14(h)(2) Exceptions.

1. Legally required communication media. Under § 1006.14(h)(2)(iii), if otherwise required by applicable law, a debt collector may communicate or attempt to communicate with a person in connection with the collection of any debt through a medium of communication that the person has requested the debt collector not use to communicate with the person. For example, assume that a debt collector who is also a mortgage servicer subject to the periodic statement requirement for residential mortgage loans under Regulation Z, 12 CFR 1026.41, is engaging in debt collection communications with a person about the person’s residential mortgage loan. The person tells the debt collector to stop mailing letters to the person, and the person has not consented to receive statements electronically in accordance with 12 CFR 1026.41(c). Although the person has requested that the debt collector not use mail to communicate with the person, § 1006.14(h)(2)(iii) permits the debt collector to mail the person periodic statements, because the periodic statements are required by applicable law.