In Todd v. Collecto, Inc., — F.3d —-, 2013 WL 5452071 (2013), the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that the FDCPA protects third person/non-debtors in only limited circumstances. The district court had dismissed Todd’s complaint for failure to state a claim for relief, finding that Todd lacks standing to bring the FDCPA claims because he is not the person who supposedly owed the debt. Todd argued on appeal that the FDCPA provisions in question protect not only debtors but also other persons harmed by a violation. The Court of Appeals held that 15 U.S.C § 1692b(2), which prohibits debt collectors from disclosing a consumer’s debt to third parties, protects only the person whose debt was disclosed. The Court of Appeals also agreed with Todd that non-debtors can sue under § 1692f, which prohibits debt collectors from using “unfair or unconscionable” collection practices, but concluded that his allegations did not state a claim for relief under that provision.
Before addressing sections 1692b(2) and 1692f specifically, we must clarify that O’Rourke should not be read to foreclose all FDCPA claims by persons other than consumers and their proxies. Such a broad reading would place that decision in tension with the text of several provisions of the FDCPA, as well as the act’s legislative history and much appellate precedent interpreting it. In enacting the FDCPA, Congress specified that a “group of people who do not owe money, but who may be deliberately harassed are the family, employer and neighbors of the consumer. These people are also protected by this bill.” H.R.Rep. No. 95–131, at 8 (1977). ¶ This intent to extend protection beyond consumers is clearly embodied in § 1692k(a), the liability provision, which specifies that “any debt collector who fails to comply with any provision of this subchapter with respect to any person is liable to such person.” (Emphasis added.) Similarly, § 1692d says that a “debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt.” (Emphasis added.) Behavior that violates § 1692d includes threats, violence, obscene language, and repeated calls intended to annoy. § 1692d(1)-(2), (5). ¶ When the issue has arisen, therefore, courts have stressed that § 1692d is not a protection just for consumers but for any person mistreated by a debt collector. See Bridge v. Ocwen Fed. Bank, 681 F.3d 355, 363 (6th Cir.2012) (reversing dismissal of claim by debtor’s spouse); Montgomery v. Huntington Bank, 346 F.3d 693, 696 (6th Cir.2003) (using section-by-section analysis to decide standing under the FDCPA); see also Evory v. RJM Acquisitions Funding L.L.C., 505 F.3d 769, 773 (7th Cir.2007) (explaining that §§ 1692d, 1692e, and 1692f “do not designate any class of persons … who can be abused, misled, etc., by debt collectors with impunity,” and emphasizing the words “any person” in § 1692d). In contrast to § 1692d, § 1692c restricts debt collectors’ communications with and about consumers and is understood to protect only the consumer-debtors themselves. Montgomery, 346 F.3d at 696; Wright v. Finance Service of Norwalk, Inc., 22 F.3d 647, 649 n. 1 (6th Cir.1994) (en banc). ¶ Accordingly, each provision of the FDCPA must be analyzed individually to determine who falls within the scope of its protection and thus to decide “with respect to” whom the provision can be violated. See Montgomery, 346 F.3d at 696–97 (explaining that someone who is not a consumer has standing under § 1692d but not under § 1692c). In O’Rourke, this court addressed only § 1692e, and we also did not consider claims under that provision by plaintiffs who are not consumers. The broad language in the opinion must be understood in that context. ¶ We turn to the specific provisions that Todd invokes. The first is § 1692b, which provides debt collectors with procedures for requesting information from a third party about a consumer’s location. Among other limitations, debt collectors are prohibited from disclosing to the third party that a consumer owes a debt, § 1692b(2), and it is this rule that Todd alleges Collecto violated. But the “zone of interest” require-ment disallows suits by plaintiffs “whose interests are unrelated to the statutory prohibitions” in question. Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP, –––U.S. ––––, ––––, 131 S.Ct. 863, 870, 178 L.Ed.2d 694 (2011). We therefore agree with the district court that § 1692b(2) of the FDCPA is a privacy protection only for the consumer who supposedly owes the debt. The provision simply is not designed to protect third parties from hearing about another person’s debts. Such a purpose would be inconsistent with § 1692c(b), a provision that places control over the disclosure of a consumer’s information squarely in the hands of the consumer, not the third party who may receive the disclosure.