There is a lot of talk about the 11th Circuit ruling going around. How this ruling will affect credit agencies, the ARM industry etc. is a cause for concern.
That’s all fine and good. It’s imminent that these industries know what steps to take next in a situation like this.
Has anyone thought about how it effects consumers? I may be employed by a debt collection agency, but I’m also a consumer.
And I’m not happy.
What is This Ruling About?
You can follow this link for the facts of the case, but here are the basics:
- Hunstein owed debt for his son’s medical bills.
- Hospital used a third-party vendor (Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc.) to inform Hunstein of the debt.
- Vendor sent the demand letter to a mail house to be sent out.
- Hunstein sued the vendor (sending a data file with consumer information to a mail house to prepare and mail a collection letter is an action “in connection with” the collection of a debt, and thus an unauthorized third-party disclosure in violation of 15 USCA §1692c(b).
What Do Third-Party Vendors Do, Exactly?
This is something we, the average consumer, don’t really think about. All we know is that life has gotten much easier with technology that allows us to handle business digitally. But here is a rundown of just a few things third-party vendors handle:
That site you go to is the company’s, but they use a vendor to create it.
Some businesses handle their own, but most (especially large companies) don’t.
- Payment Transactions
That site that you’re “redirected to” when you pay a bill online? That’s a vendor.
- Customer Service
Did you have any idea that the person you talk to on the phone is likely not even employed by the company you’re trying to reach?
Third-party vendors have a plethora of jobs. And they make your life as a consumer much easier.
How Does This Ruling Affect Me, the Consumer?
You know that payment portal you log into to pay your bills online? You may lose it.
Those reminder emails that let you know a bill is due. May lose those too.
Do you collect your electronic receipts for tax records? You may not for long.
Oh, and you know how you hate being on the phone for hours with companies to pay bills, get info on your account, etc.? Better make sure you have unlimited minutes because you may be on the phone a lot more now.
All the things that make life easier as a consumer are going away. This essentially puts us back in the dark ages. Technology doesn’t matter anymore. Your preferences are irrelevant.
Depending on how all this pans out, it may take quite a bit longer for you to receive communication about billing or debt that you owe. If a company has to send out letters for every invoice and debt owed to every customer they have, it will take forever to get that information to your mailbox. (Remember, no more emails)
Why Don’t Businesses Handle Billing and Collections Themselves?
There is a lot of work behind the scenes for the agencies effected by this. Can you imagine a credit agency printing every letter, licking every envelope and hand typing each individual email that goes out to customers? There’s no way.
Think about it this way: In my family (let’s call my husband and I an agency) our kids (the customers) are our priority. We want to do for them, play with them, essentially give them happy, healthy lives. We have a lot of responsibilities inside this home, and neither of us can get it all done efficiently. Eventually laundry gets backed up, dishes aren’t washed when we need them, etc.
For our kids to be our priority, we hire vendors. Some of those include a housekeeper, meal kit services, shopping services, etc. Since we can’t get it all done ourselves in a timely manner, we employ them to get some of the work done. In order for things to be taken care of so we can focus on our kiddos, we need vendors.
Tasks are taken care of and the kids know they are our priority. Not only because we are spending time with them, but because the things they’ve come to expect from their parents (clean laundry, dinner on the table, etc.) are done.
Bada-bing, bada-boom. Everyone’s covered.
When we don’t have help, we can’t give the kids the attention they’ve become accustomed to. They want to go to the park, and I’m stuck doing dishes. Our toddlers want to snuggle on the couch, and we can’t because we have to tackle all the jobs our vendors would do.
That’s essentially what happened in the Hunstein case. The hospital itself didn’t have the manpower to handle all the work it’s responsible for while making their patients their priority (most businesses don’t). They hired Preferred so they could take better care of their patients.
The companies who strive to put their customers first may now have to play a bit of a balancing act. Keeping their customers their priority but making sure the dishes are done at the same time.
I don’t think this situation is over right now. I think this is only the beginning. It’s way too early to tell how this will eventually pan out.
And because I’m a writer, not an attorney I can’t give you any advice. All I can do is inform.
If you want to evaluate your options, seek legal counsel. They can tell you what can and cannot be done about this situation.
Until then, make sure to upgrade those minutes!
*The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information.