Recently, the fast food chain Whataburger sued NCO Financial Systems citing debt collection abuse. NCO allegedly made persistent and harassing calls to Whataburger headquarters, which employs around 400 people, in an attempt to try and reach an unidentified person working there.
Whataburger is choosing to defend their employee and take legal action against NCO Financial Systems. Rather than blame the employee for the harassing calls, Whataburger has decided to take a stand against the debt collection agency by filing a lawsuit.
Whataburger claims that NCO Financial Systems ignored a cease-and-desist letter from July 16. The Fair Debt Coollection Practices Act requires debt collectors to honor cease-and-desist letters. Instead, NCO allegedly placed over 50 calls to Whataburger’s toll-free number, trying to reach an employee. Whataburger notes that the consistent calling is disruptive and keeps employees busy answering the phone calls, making it harder for them to do their jobs.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was enacted to protect people and companies from being abused by debt collection agencies. If Whataburger’s claims are true, NCO Financial Systems could have violated this act by repeatedly calling and by ignoring a cease-and-desist letter. In the Harassment and Abuse section of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, it states, “Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number” is a violation of the act. Whataburger says they received over 20 calls from NCO after the cease-and-desist letter was sent to them.
It has been speculated that the unidentified Whataburger employee that NCO Financial Systems was trying to reach may not actually owe any debts. Debt collection agencies sometimes buy old debts from other collections companies. This can result in confusion on who the debt really belongs to.
NCO Financial Systems company is no stranger to debt collection practice problems. Earlier in the year, the company reached a settlement with attorney generals from 19 different states. In the settlement, NCO said that they would change their debt collection practices, and that they would pay each state $50,000 in restitution fees. In the year 2008, the State of Texas charged the company with making threatening and harassing phone calls to consumers. The State and the debt collection company were able to come to a resolution on this issue.