In the context of debt collection, non-disclosure, blocking, or misrepresentation through telephone caller identification equipment has received attention from the FTC and courts. For example, one FTC complaint pleaded:
19. In numerous instances, including in connection with newly-acquired loans, [collector] has made collection calls to borrowers repeatedly and with excessive frequency under the circumstances. In addition, in numerous instances, [collector] has made collection calls using cell phones that display only the borrower’s local area code on the borrower’s caller identification display (“caller ID”), and without identifying its name on the caller ID. [collector] has used cell phones and caller ID in this fashion notwithstanding that [collector] was not calling from the borrower’s local area code. See FTC v. EMC Mortgage, Inc. (E.D. Tex. 2008) (emphasis added).
At least three decisions discuss the caller identification and the FDCPA: Knoll v. Intellirisk Management Corporation, Inc. 2006 WL 2974190 (D.Minn. 2006) (“Knoll I”), Knoll v. Allied Interstate, Inc., 502 F. Supp. 2d 943 (D. Minn. 2007). (“Knoll II”), and Glover v. Client Servs., Inc., No. 1:07-CV-81, 2007 WL 2902209 (W.D. Mich. Oct. 2, 2007). In Knoll I, the district court held that the plaintiffs stated a claim for violation of the FDCPA by using software which identified “Jennifer Smith” as the caller instead of the name of the debt collector because “the caller identification device masked that a debt collector was calling.” Knoll II held the same thing. On the other hand, Glover held that a debt collector’s electronic transmission of the word “unavailable” to the consumer’s caller ID did not violate the FDCPA, finding the phrase not false or misleading. The Glover case distinguished the Knoll decisions because the term ‘unavailable’ “was entirely accurate as it conveyed that the identity of the caller was not available. Rather than being misled into to answering his phone based on the representation that the caller was “Jennifer Smith”, here Plaintiff was accurately informed that the identity of the caller was unavailable. Plaintiff could then choose whether to answer his telephone”.
Enacted December 22, 2010, Congress passed the Truth-in-Caller ID Act of 2009 which makes it “unlawful for any person within the United States, in connection with any telecommunications service or IP-enabled voice service, to cause any caller identification service to knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value,” subject to certain exceptions. However, nothing in the statute “may be construed to prevent or restrict any person from blocking the capability of any caller identification service to transmit caller identification information.”
This follows the FTC’s Notice of Rulemaking on December 7, 2010 regarding its telemarking rules and caller identification. The FTC stated:
The Federal Trade Commission today announced it is seeking public comments on whether and how to strengthen the Caller ID provisions of the Telemarketing Sales Rule. By requiring telemarketers to provide Caller ID information, the Rule allows consumers to screen out unwanted calls. The FTC seeks comments on how to make Caller ID more useful to consumers and combat technologies that hide telemarketers’ identities. “Beefing up the Rule’s Caller ID provisions will help the FTC keep pace with rapidly changing technologies and more effectively fulfill its consumer protection mission,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Currently, the Rule’s Caller ID provisions require telemarketers to provide consumers who use Caller ID services with either a telephone number for the telemarketer or the number of the seller or charitable organization represented by the telemarketer. Some Caller ID services also display names of up to 15 characters to identify the caller. The Rule promotes telemarketer accountability and helps the FTC and other law enforcement agencies to identify telemarketers that engage in improper telemarketing, including telemarketers that call numbers on the Do Not Call Registry. Under the Rule, telemarketers must provide the name of the telemarketer, seller, or charitable organization to such Caller ID services, if the telemarketer’s carrier makes this available. The Caller ID regulations give telemarketers flexibility in determining what telephone numbers to transmit, and in determining whether the name of the telemarketer, or the name of the seller or charity, is displayed on Caller ID services. Not all businesses abide by the these Caller ID requirements, however, as seen in recent FTC cases that charge telemarketers pitching fraudulent extended auto warranties and credit card interest rate reduction programs with violating the Caller ID requirements. Since 2005, the FTC has initiated 10 enforcement actions that charge abusive telemarketers with concealing their identities from consumers. The FTC’s request for comments notes that “spoofing” or manipulating Caller ID names and numbers may become more common as telemarketers increasingly use advanced telecommunications technologies.