Minnesota Law Can Hold Debt Collectors Liable When Auto Dialers Call the Wrong Number

Debt collectors have used an array of tactics over the years to contact debtors and compel them to make payments toward debt. As our legal team at Atlas Consumer Law knows all too well, many of these tactics toe the line of not just human decency, but also federal law established by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In some cases, some tactics are blatant violations.

When debt collectors violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, consumers have the right to hold them accountable. Commonly, harassment under the FDCPA involves debt collectors who misrepresent themselves, make false or misleading statements, threaten debtors, or make excessive phone calls with the intent to annoy, among other violations.

While federal laws such as the FDCPA shield consumers against unjust treatment at the hands of businesses, some states go further in protecting consumer rights and ensuring that businesses treat them with the decency they deserve.

Minnesota is one state that has passed laws dealing with the interaction between businesses and consumers, including one law that directly targets the use of auto dialers. In a direct response to business technology that utilizes automation to contact consumers, common with telemarketers, the Minnesota Automatic Dialing-Announcing Devices statute takes a firm approach to setting boundaries and ensuring these technologies don’t have free reign to intrude upon the lives of state residents.

Under the ADAD Act, debt collectors and others can potentially be held liable for actual damages and legal fees if they call a phone line anywhere in Minnesota:

  • Using an auto dialer
  • Without receiving consent from the consumer
  • Without having an established business relationship
  • Using a prerecorded voice

The highly specifically named Automatic Dialing-Announcing Devices statute generally prohibits anyone from calling Minnesota phone lines using an ADAD device, with exception in cases where there is a current business or personal relationship or:

  • Consumers have provided their content to receive the call (or have requested or authorized the message); or
  • A live operator immediately precedes the prerecorded voice and obtains the consumer’s consent before playing the message.

The law may target the use of automated calls common with telemarketers, but it also applies to pretty much anyone, including debt collectors and creditors that use automation and technology to facilitate collections. This means that in Minnesota, debt collectors who use automatic dialing-announcing devices could be held liable in cases where an auto-dialer calls the wrong number, and they do not have a live operator confirm that a consumer consents to hearing a prerecorded message. The law also requires consumers to pursue legal action using private claims that limit actions to those which benefit the public. When consumers are successful, they can recover damages, including costs of investigation and attorney fees.

Minnesota’s unique law and broad application may mean that debt collectors will be on the hook when they indiscriminately use auto-dialers to contact consumers and accidently call the wrong person, but it also sheds light on evolving legislation that deals with evolving technology and new business tactics. These types of laws, while sometimes quirky in their effect and scope, are essential to furthering the rights of consumers who face an onslaught from businesses that want their money – debt collectors included. For example, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which was also passed to regulate telemarketers and others who disturb consumers with robocalls, prohibits unsolicited text messages.

Although technology helps businesses, it can certainly infringe upon the rights of consumers and limit their ability to obtain or provide information. Dealing with automation and technology can also be highly impersonal and, for many, simply annoying. Taking a look at how consumers are treated by new technologies and businesses tactics is essential to ensuring that as business and technologies evolve, so do the laws that regulate them and prevent them from having unfettered access into our lives.

Atlas Consumer Law is a consumer law firm passionate about protecting the rights of clients throughout Chicago and the state of Illinois. If you have questions about consumer law, your rights, or wish to discuss a potential case personal with a member of our legal team, we invite you to schedule a case consultation. Contact us today to get started.

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