Texas Woman Can’t Sue Over Silent Voicemail

     HOUSTON (CN) – A south Texas woman cannot sue the debt collector she says engaged in the “highly offensive” conduct of leaving a silent voicemail on her answering machine, a federal judge ruled.
     Brenda Garza filed a federal complaint against collection agency MRS BPO L.L.C. fka MRS Associates Inc. in order to stop what she called “its violative behaviors.”
     “As alleged in Garza’s complaint, the facts of this dispute are simple and can be recounted in one sentence,” U.S. District Judge Gray Miller wrote. “On January 20, 2012 at 4:44 p.m., MRS, a debt collection agency, telephoned Garza and left a twenty-second voicemail consisting only of ‘dead air’ on Garza’s answering machine,” Miller explained in an order issued last week.
     Garza argued that MRS BPO withheld its corporate or business name and did not indicate that it was a debt collector in the voicemail.
     But Miller dismissed with prejudice Garza’s claims for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Texas Debt Collection Act, and the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
     Miller found that the voicemail lacked substance and did not constitute a communication under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
     “In short, persuasive case law supports the idea that a voicemail is a communication only when it conveys more information than could be gathered from a missed call,” the order states. “Silence does not meet this standard.”
     The inaudible voicemail similarly does not qualify as a communication under the Texas Debt Collection Act, and given that Garza’s claim under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act must tie-in with that act, both state claims also fail, according to Miller. Miller concluded that Garza failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted, and he issued a final judgment dismissing the case on Wednesday.

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