Debt Collection A to Z: P is for Publication
Hear ye! Hear ye! Now hear this….be careful what you publish and how you publish. This maxim definitely applies to debt collectors.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (applies only to debt collectors; not original creditors) and the North Carolina Debt Collection Act (applies to ALL species of debt collectors including individuals collecting on their own debt) when you are making phone calls, sending letters, posting notices, and otherwise engaging in debt collection be conscious of how you do it. One illegal tactic used by some collectors is the “deadbeat list” in which the names of debtors and the amounts owed (and often other information) is posted in a place for third parties to see. Presumably the goal of the deadbeat list is to shame the debtor into making arrangements to pay the debt. While it may be effective it is illegal.
Homeowners associations, condo associations, and similar entities often employ deadbeat lists. In one case I worked on a community in the Triad area posted a deadbeat list of the names, unit numbers, and monetary amounts owed by homeowners who allegedly owed for homeowner dues, assessments, and other monetary amounts. Now read the North Carolina law on publication of debts and see if you see any problems (see the red font below):
§ 75‑53. Unreasonable publication.
No debt collector shall unreasonably publicize information regarding a consumer’s debt. Such unreasonable publication includes, but is not limited to, the following:
(1) Any communication with any person other than the debtor or his attorney, except:
- With the written permission of the debtor or his attorney given after default;
- To persons employed by the debt collector, to a credit reporting agency, to a person or business employed to collect the debt on behalf of the creditor, or to a person who makes a legitimate request for the information;
- To the spouse (or one who stands in place of the spouse) of the debtor, or to the parent or guardian of the debtor if the debtor is a minor and lives in the same household with such parent;
- For the sole purpose of locating the debtor, if no indication of indebtedness is made;
- Through legal process.
(2) Using any form of communication which ordinarily would be seen or heard by any person other than the consumer that displays or conveys any information about the alleged debt other than the name, address and phone number of the debt collector except as otherwise provided in this Article.
(3) Disclosing any information relating to a consumer’s debt by publishing or posting any list of consumers, except for credit reporting purposes and the publication and distribution of otherwise permissible “stop lists” to the point‑of‑sale locations where credit is extended, or by advertising for sale any claim to enforce payment thereof or in any other manner other than through legal process. (1977, c. 747, s. 4; 1979, c. 910.)
Suffice it to say that publication of a debt may not be a good strategy for the debt collector. In some cases it could wind up making the debt collector the debtor when the actual debtor has counterclaims and significant monetary damages from the nature and/or quantity of the publication. Feel free to publish this blog post to your social media, links, favorites, family, and friends. If you believe your debt has been illegally published contact an experienced attorney for a consultation.