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AGLO 1974 No. 43 - April 11, 1974
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

COLLECTION AGENCIES ‑- LICENSES ‑- COLLECT TELEPHONE CALLS TO OUT-OF-STATE DEBTORS

The provisions of RCW 19.16.250(16) prohibit a collection agency licensed as such under chapter 19.16 RCW from placing a collect telephone call within the state of Washington to a debtor or other person located out-of-state for the purpose of demanding payment of a claim or seeking information about a debtor.

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                                                                   April 11, 1974

Honorable Pete Francis
State Senator, 32nd District
7310 E. Greenlake Dr. No.
Seattle, Washington 98115                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1974 No. 43
 
 
Dear Sir:
 
            By recent letter you have asked for our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
 
            Do the provisions of RCW 19.16.250(16) prohibit a collection agency licensed as such under chapter 19.16 RCW from placing a collect telephone call from within the state of Washington to a debtor or other person located out-of-state for the purpose of demanding payment of a claim or seeking information about a debtor?
 
            We believe that the foregoing question is answerable in the affirmative.
 
                                                                     ANALYSIS
 
            Chapter 19.16 RCW codifies the provisions of chapter 253, Laws of 1971, 1st Ex. Sess., and relates, generally, to the activities of collection agencies.  Section 2, now codified as RCW 19.16.110, provides that:
 
            "No person shall act, assume to act, or advertise as a collection agency as defined in this chapter, except as authorized by this chapter, without first having applied for and obtained a license from the director.
 
            "Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to require a regular employee of a collection agency duly licensed under this chapter to procure a collection agency license."
 
            The portion of this act which is pertinent to your question is RCW 19.16.250(16), codifying a portion  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] of § 16 of the act, and providing that:
 
            "No licensee or employee of a licensee shall:
 
            ". . .
 
            "(16) Send any telegram or make any telephone calls to a debtor or concerning a debt or for the purpose of demanding payment of a claim or seeking information about a debtor, for which the charges are payable by the addressee or by the person to whom the call is made."
 
            This subsection, like the remainder of RCW 19.16.250, directs itself to the activities of licensed collection agencies occurring in this state.  Insofar as your question is concerned it is more particularly directed to any collect telephone call or telegram made by such a licensed collection agency for any of the designated purposes.  Thus, in our opinion, it applies to a collect phone call made by such a collection agency in this state to a debtor or other person for the purpose of demanding payment of a claim or seeking information about a debtor ‑ irrespective of whether or not the person thus called is also situated in the state of Washington when the call is made.
 
            Of course, if the legislature desires to exclude such collect telephone calls from the prohibition of this statute it is entirely free to do so.  Absent a disclaimer of intent to cover this situation, however, we believe that it must be deemed to be within the purview of the statute and, hence, currently prohibited.
 
            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
 
Very truly yours,
 
SLADE GORTON
Attorney General
 
 PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

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