In Brayton v. Alltran Fin., LP, No. 1:21-cv-309-MOC-WCM, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72396, at *12-14 (W.D.N.C. Apr. 26, 2023), Judge Cogburn dismissed an FDCPA premised on an argument that calls showing the area code local to the debtor on the debtor’s caller ID were deceptive.
Plaintiff’s claim under Section 1692e(10) is predicated on the theory that it was false or misleading for Defendant to use outbound phone numbers that match the local area code of the phone numbers called, despite that the calls purportedly originated from Defendant’s call center in Texas. Courts have overwhelmingly held, however, that using a local number is not materially misleading information or prohibited conduct under the FDCPA. Brown v. MRS BPO, LLC, No. 1:20cv06762, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 163116, 2022 WL 4119789, at *12 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 9, 2022) (collecting cases) (finding summary judgment in favor of the defendant and noting “[n]umerous courts have held that the use of local area codes to call debtors does not violate the FDCPA”); Cunningham v. Radius Glob. Sols. LLC, 4:20cv294, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 167954, 2020 WL 5518073, at *6 (E.D. Tex. Sept. 14, 2020) (noting that courts interpreting the FDCPA have found that using local caller ID numbers is not false, deceptive, or misleading in violation of the FDCPA); Bermudez v. Diversified Consultants Inc., No. 18-2004, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16274, 2019 WL 415569 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 1, 2019) (finding no violation where the defendant debt collector located in Florida placed calls to the plaintiff’s daughter using phone numbers that appeared on the daughter’s caller ID with a 215 Pennsylvania area code); Scheffler v. Integrity Fin. Partners, Inc., No. 12-188, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 188903, 2013 WL 9768539 (D. Minn. Oct. 28, 2013) (granting summary judgment to defendant, where there was no dispute that the local phone number displayed on the plaintiff’s caller ID actually belonged to the defendant, and where the defendant did not display the name of a fictitious person or pretend to be a family member calling). As other courts have held, the use of a local phone number is not a material misrepresentation because it has no impact whatsoever on a consumer’s ability to intelligently choose how to deal with a debt. Even if the use of local phone numbers frustrated a consumer’s decision to pick up a call, which the courts have rejected, that would not be enough to render it a material misstatement. The frustration must be important to the debtor’s decision to pay, dispute, request validation, or take some substantive action regarding the debt. See Powell, 782 F.3d at 127. Here, a consumer would realize that they are talking to a debt collector once the consumer begins talking to the collection agency representative. Before talking to a collection representative, such consumer had no ability to take any action or make any decision regarding the debt for which he or she is being called. Because the decision-making process could not begin until a consumer actually answers the phone, the use of a local number cannot be a material misrepresentation—if it is a misrepresentation at all. Thus, Plaintiff cannot state a FDCPA claim predicated on Defendant’s use of local area codes, regardless of whether the calls were to him or to third parties.