Debt collectors are not permitted to use any means they choose to hound a consumer debtor into paying. While the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lays down some ground rules, state laws may be even stricter. The complaint for this class action alleges that Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. (SPS) violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) and the Massachusetts Debt Collection Regulations (MDCR) by calling consumers as many as eight times in a week.
The class for this action is all consumers living in Massachusetts who, between March 8, 2015 and March 8, 2019, received more than two telephone calls within a seven-day period, to their residence, cell phone, or other provided number, from SPS for the collection of a debt.
While the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lays down some ground rules that third-party debt collectors must follow, states are free to pass their own laws, which may be even stricter.
Under Massachusetts law, a creditor or debt collector cannot “initiate a communication with any debtor via telephone, either in person or via text messaging or recorded audio message, in excess of two such communications in each seven-day period to either the debtor’s residence, cellular telephone, or other telephone number provided by the debtor as his or her personal telephone number.”
The state’s Supreme Court has confirmed that debt collectors cannot place more than two collection calls per week to Massachusetts consumer debtors, regardless of the outcome of the call. This means that even if the debt collector did not reach the consumer, the call was initiated, so it counts as one of the two calls per week.
In this case, plaintiff Allen Alper allegedly incurred a debt in the form of a home mortgage. The mortgage was a consumer debt, the complaint says, because it was primarily for family, personal, or household purposes.
At some point, in or around 2017, SPS began to try to collect the debt. The company continued to do so throughout 2017 and 2018. On average, the complaint says, SPS called Alper eight times in a seven-day period.
The initiation of more than two calls in a seven-day period violates the MCPA, the complaint claims. The complaint asks for an injunction forbidding the company to place more than two calls to Alper’s phone in a seven-day period, plus treble actual and statutory damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.