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Kersten Holzhueter

Partner

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T 816.292.8302
F 816.474.3216
kholzhueter@spencerfane.com

The Eleventh Circuit Calls Into Question the use of Letter Vendors as Violative of the FDCPA

The Eleventh Circuit in Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc. issued an opinion yesterday that confronted an issue of first impression, namely, whether a debt collector can use a third party vendor to send collection letters without violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).  The facts were simple.  The defendant/debt collector used a third party letter vendor to send an initial “dunning” letter to the plaintiff/consumer.  In doing so, the defendant provided the vendor with the plaintiff’s name, his outstanding balance, the fact that his debt resulted from his son’s medical treatment, and his son’s name.  The plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging that the defendant violated the FDCPA by disclosing his personal information to the third-party vendor.

The Third Circuit Explains That the ‘Least Sophisticated Consumer’ is Presumed to Have a Willingness to Read Collection Letters With Care

In the recent Third Circuit opinion rendered in Moyer v. Patenaude & Felix, A.P.C., the plaintiff brought a putative class action alleging that Patenaude & Felix violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) by sending her a single collection letter. The letter advised the plaintiff that her debt had been assigned to the firm and stated: “If you wish to eliminate further collection action, please contact us at 800-832-7675 ext. 8500.”  The letter then went on to advise the plaintiff of her validation rights under §1692g.  Resolution of the alleged class action claims required the Third Circuit to decide whether the inclusion of the single sentence inviting a call would confuse the least sophisticated consumer.

After CFPB Refuses to Change FDCPA’s Strict Liability, Ninth Circuit Permits Bona Fide Error Defense for Statute of Limitations Mistake

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently considered eliminating strict liability for one category of claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA): claims asserting that a debt collector brought or threatened to bring legal action to collect a time-barred debt. The proposed revision to Regulation F would have required consumers to show that a debt collector knew or should have known the debt was outside the statute of limitations. Advocates for the change argued that strict liability was inappropriate because a debt collector can reach the wrong conclusion about a state’s application of the statute of limitations even after a thorough investigation and a consumer can raise the issue as an affirmative defense if he/she disagrees with the collector’s conclusion.  Debt Collection Practices (Regulation F), 86 FR 5766-01 (Jan. 19, 2021).

Confusion and Anxiety Fail to Satisfy a Plaintiff’s Burden Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) was enacted in 1977 to eliminate abusive debt collection practices.  15 U.S.C. § 1692(e).  To further that goal, section 1692e of the FDCPA prohibits a debt collector from using false, deceptive, and misleading representations; section 1692f prohibits a debt collector from using unfair or unconscionable means; and, section 1692g requires a debt collector to provide certain information (the amount of the debt, name of creditor, and explanation of right to dispute a debt) to a consumer.

Spencer Fane LLP Victorious In Ninth Circuit Case Challenging Collection Letters For Time-Barred Debts

Josh Dickinson (Omaha) and Kersten Holzhueter (Kansas City) recently obtained a victory for a debt buyer in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In Barry Stimpson v. Midland Funding, LLC, the plaintiff alleged that a letter seeking to collect on a time-barred debt violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  The letter offered a discount to resolve the debt and contained this language to explain that the debt could not be enforced in court: “The law limits how long you can be sued on a debt and how long a debt can appear on your credit report. Due to the age of this debt, we will not sue you for it or report payment or non-payment of it to a credit bureau.”

Steps for Employers to Avoid Violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) outlines a strict procedure that employers must follow when they obtain criminal background reports, credit histories, and other background reports on employees and applicants from a third party which is engaged in the business of preparing such reports. All such reports are called “consumer reports” under FCRA.