In Worsham v. Accounts Receivable Management, Inc., 2012 WL 5503980 (4th Cir. 2012), the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that a debt collection company could call a third party to obtain location information more than one time so long as its belief that the third party had information about the debtor was reasonable.
Although third parties may understandably find debt-collection calls bothersome or inconvenient, Congress has allowed debt collectors to call third parties on multiple occasions in certain instances. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692b. When communicating with a third party, the debt collector shall “not communicate with any such person more than once … unless the debt collector reasonably believes that the earlier response of such person is … incomplete and that such person now has … complete location information.” Id. § 1692b(3). The use of the word “reasonably” indicates that this is an objective standard that the debt collector must meet to avoid liability under the FDCPA. Cf. Restatement (Second) of Torts § 283 cmt. 3 (1965) (observing that the “reasonable man” standard in tort-law negligence is “an objective and external one, rather than that of the individual judgment, good or bad, of the particular individual”). Here, Worsham’s complaint alleges that he heard “more prompts and options” after he pressed “2” to indicate that he was not Martha. J.A. 9. Based on this fact, a reasonable person would believe that Worsham’s response to the call was incomplete. Furthermore, a reasonable person would believe that Worsham would have knowledge of Bucheli’s location at the time of a later call based on his number appearing as a possible contact for Bucheli. Nothing in the record contradicts these facts, and Worsham cannot now contradict his own pleadings to create a genuine issue of material fact. . . . Accordingly, § 1692b(3) allowed ARM to continue calling Worsham until it reasonably believed that it had received a complete response, so ARM’s additional phone calls did not violate the statute.