Hi Everyone, 

It’s Hector here and as we come to the end of winter, hope all is well. As always, your emails and letters continue to interest me.

I received one email from a credit manager that asked for “my thoughts” on a collection situation that appears to have a legal angle to it. 

The credit manager works at a mid-size wholesaler of electrical parts and had an outstanding invoice against one of their customers, a one-man owned electrical contractor, for about $3,000. The transaction was a first time for this customer and from the credit information received, the credit manager felt sufficiently comfortable to approve credit up to $3K.  

Unfortunately, at 45 days past due, the credit manager started to call the customer for payment. On the first try, he was able to get in touch with the customer and there was a perfunctory promise to pay within the next few days. After a week went by and no check was received, another call was made, which went straight to voice mail. This was soon followed-up with a couple of emails that had escalating degrees of demands, along with some more phone calls. As tenacious as the credit manager was, he was being ignored. 

At 60 days past due, the credit manager decided to call the debtor from his cell phone to see if he could get in touch with him. The reason he went that route, rather than calling from the company phone, was to avoid giving the debtor a heads up from where the call was originating. In other words, when the debtor would see a call coming in on his cell phone display from an unrecognizable number, perhaps out of curiosity he would be inclined to answer it. He might be thinking that it’s an inquiry for his contracting services or other opportunity. Sure enough, the debtor answered the credit manager’s call. 

When the credit manager heard the debtor’s salutatory first words, “This is Bob from ABC Electrical.” he immediately identified himself and inquired as to when payment would be forthcoming. The debtor responded that it was “illegal” for the credit manager to be calling him from a number that did not clearly identify the creditor’s company. The credit manager deftly responded that he is allowed to call to any commercial entity from any phone number, and that this was only an excuse to maneuver out of the payment obligation. He then again demanded to know when payment would be forthcoming. Sadly, the debtor hung up, literally leaving the credit manager hanging as to the resolution of this outstanding payment. 

Putting aside what to do with this unpaid account, can a credit risk management professional call a commercial customer/debtor using their mobile phone to disguise from where the call is coming? Does this infringe on any kind of collection illegality? 

Since I was asked to give “my thoughts,” bearing in mind that this is in no way legal advice, I would be inclined to call from any number, within or outside the company, that could lead to connecting with the debtor. The debtor’s excuse that the call must originate from an identifiable number doesn’t hold much water since many numbers within a company’s range of numbers might not show up on the debtor’s display identifying it in the creditor’s name. 

But with all things “legal,” it’s best to always consult your legal counsel and get their take in writing. In this litigious day and age, people sue, and counter sue based on unsubstantiated reasons to try and maneuver out of their financial obligations. 

Your thoughts would be most appreciated. 

Hector the Collector is a credit collection and human resources advice column by Nancy Seiverd President CMI Credit Mediators Inc. Your thoughts and comments (nseiverd@cmiweb.com) are most welcome! 

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