On August 23, a federal judge in Illinois ruled that a consumer who had multiple accounts with different creditors assigned to the same collection agency did not effectively revoke consent for all accounts merely by revoking consent for one.  Specifically, the Court said that when a consumer told a collection agency to stop calling him in response to a call made on a specific creditor’s account, it was not a “global” revocation with respect to all remaining creditors.

In Michel v. Credit Protection Association, L.P., et al., plaintiff Matthew Michel incurred debts with two separate creditors – Comcast and Commonwealth Edison (ComEd).  Defendant Credit Protection Association (CPA) received both accounts for collection, but at different times.  CPA first received the Comcast debt and began placing multiple calls to Michel’s cell phone to collect on that debt.  Michel called CPA and revoked his consent to be contacted on his cell phone.  Per Michel’s request, CPA ceased calling on the Comcast account.

Soon thereafter, CPA received the ComEd account to collect on, and it began calling Michel’s cell phone in an attempt to collect that debt.  Michel claimed that when CPA contacted him and left messages, it failed to inform him that the calls were for the ComEd account.  CPA replied it had sent letters to Michel regarding the ComEd account, which contained an eleven-digit account number.  Further, CPA referenced that account number when leaving messages for Michel.

Michel sued CPA, claiming it violated the FDCPA and the TCPA when it continued to contact his cell phone using an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) after Michel revoked consent.  Both parties moved for summary judgment on the sole issue of whether Michel’s revocation of consent for the Comcast account also applied to calls made on the ComEd account.

Claiming he should recover for all calls made to him after revocation of consent, Michel argued that:

(1)     His call to CPA revoked any prior consent regardless of whether it was for Comcast or ComEd;

(2)     He should not have had to decipher the eleven-digit account number to determine which account CPA was calling on; and

(3)     CPA had the ability to perform searches within its database to determine whether Michel had multiple accounts and, therefore, should have placed his cell phone number on a “do not call” list.

In turn, CPA simply argued that Michel’s revocation of consent to his Comcast account did not apply to other subsequent accounts placed by different creditors.  If Michel wanted to revoke consent, he needed to do so on each individual account.

In holding for CPA, the Court found that revocation of consent for one creditor was not revocation of consent for all creditors.  Even though Michel could show he revoked his consent for the Comcast account, that alone was not enough to constitute a global revocation.

The Court noted that when Michel revoked his consent for the Comcast account, he was also returning a call to CPA made on behalf of Comcast.  The Court stressed the “creditor specific” nature of Michel’s actions and found he could not anticipatorily revoke consent for future calls placed by CPA on behalf of other creditors.  Further, the court observed that, though tedious for Michel to distinguish which account CPA was calling upon, the burden fell upon him to make that distinction if CPA provided sufficient identifying factors to separate the accounts.

Lastly, the Court was unpersuaded by Michel’s argument that CPA must cross-reference accounts submitted by all creditors to determine if a consumer had revoked consent for a different creditor merely because CPA has the capacity to do so.  Rather, the Court stated the TCPA simply required CPA to refrain from calling Michel using an ATDS on the Comcast account once consent was revoked.  It does not place an additional burden on CPA to proactively mark a consumer’s cell phone number in anticipation of additional creditors placing accounts that would allow calls to the consumer’s cell phone.

This case provides valuable insight for those collection agencies that represent multiple creditors against the same consumer.  We will continue to monitor this area of the law as these cases develop.