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TCPA 101: Court Ruling Reminds Us of the Fundamentals for Debt Collection Calls

In the realm of TCPA litigation, consent and revocation are bedrock issues that TCPA practitioners encounter on a daily basis. Amidst the often times complicated and nuanced legal issues surrounding the TCPA, a court in the Southern District of Georgia provided us with a nice refresher on the fundamentals for TCPA compliance in the context of debt collection calls.

In Oatman v. Augusta Collection Agency, Case No. CV 118-089, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 213714 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 11, 2019), Plaintiff incurred a debt of $2,196 for medical services provided to him and Defendant was hired to collect the outstanding debt. Plaintiff provided his phone number to Defendant during his first call to Defendant on March 21, 2018. Then, during a call on March 28, 2018, Plaintiff told Defendant not to call him again. Defendant did not call him again, but Plaintiff called Defendant several times after March 28 to inquire about his debt.

Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant, alleging that Defendant called him using an automatic telephone dialing system in violation of the TCPA. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff consented to receiving such calls when he provided Defendant with his phone number. The court granted Defendant’s motion on grounds that Plaintiff provided consent to receive calls from Defendant.

In reaching its decision, the court noted that “persons who knowingly release their phone numbers have in effect given their invitation or permission to be called at the number which they have given, absent instructions to the contrary.” In this case, because Plaintiff initiated contact with Defendant, the only way Plaintiff could recover under the TCPA was if Defendant called him after he told Defendant to stop calling. Plaintiff failed to provide evidence that he received calls after he withdrew his consent. As such, the court granted summary judgment for Defendant as to Plaintiff’s TCPA claim.

Oatman serves as reminder of the importance of these cornerstone rules concerning consent and revocation in the context of debt collection calls, and is a nice illustration of basic blocking and tackling that led to a positive outcome for the defendant in that case. 

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About this Author

Susan Nikdel, Womble, litigation attorney

Susan represents clients in commercial and financial services litigation, particularly Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) cases. She is part of a team that has handled more than 600 TCPA cases, including more than 50 national class actions.

Prior to beginning her legal career, Susan served as a Judicial Extern for the Honorable Theodor C. Albert in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Central District of California.  She is a Certified Mediator.

Susan is fluent in Farsi/Persian and conversational in Spanish.