Cardinal Health, Inc.; Analysis of Agreement Containing Consent Order to Aid Public Comment
The consent agreement in this matter settles alleged violations of federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition. The attached Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes both the allegations in the draft complaint and the terms of the consent orderembodied in the consent agreementthat would settle these allegations.
Statement of Policy Regarding Communications in Connection With the Collection of Decedents' Debts
Pursuant to the FTC's authority to enforce the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (``FDCPA''), 15 U.S.C. 1692l(a), and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (``FTC Act''), 15 U.S.C. 45, the Commission issues this final Statement of Policy Regarding Communications in Connection with the Collection of Decedents' Debts (``Statement'').\1\ When a person dies, creditors and the debt collectors they hire usually have the right to collect on the person's debts from the assets of his or her estate. Sections 805(b) and (d) of the FDCPA prohibit debt collectors from contacting individuals other than the debtor to collect a debt, unless the individual is the debtor's spouse, parent (if the debtor is a minor), guardian, executor, or administrator. The Commission has learned that, to recover on a decedent's debts, some debt collectors contact the decedent's relatives, although these relatives may have no authority to pay the debts from the decedent's estate and no legal obligation to pay the debts from their own assets. By contacting persons who are not specified in Section 805 of the FDCPA, and by engaging in practices that may deceive those persons about their obligations, these debt collectors may be violating the FDCPA. The Commission recognizes, however, that imposing unnecessary restrictions on a debt collector's ability to collect a decedent's debt from the person authorized to pay those debts may instead cause some debt collectors to seek to recover by invoking the probate process, imposing substantial costs on the estate and delaying the distribution of assets to heirs and beneficiaries. To balance these interests and protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices, this Statement announces that the FTC will forebear from enforcing Section 805(b) of the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. 1692c(b), against a debt collector for communicating about a decedent's debts with persons specifically identified as appropriate to contact under Section 805 of the FDCPA (e.g., spouse, parent, guardian, executor, or administrator) or any other person who has the authority to pay the decedent's debts from the assets of the decedent's estate. The Statement also clarifies how a debt collector can comply with the law in locating the person who has the requisite authority with whom to discuss the decedent's debts. Finally, the Statement explains how a debt collector can avoid engaging in deceptive practices in communicating with a third party about a decedent's debts.