A lower court judgment that was overturned by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently regarding the wording of a letter from a debt collection agency may have a positive effect on Florida consumers plagued by such letters. The ruling was made on the basis that the “least sophisticated consumer” would not be able to understand the correct course of action to take based on wording in a letter from the debt collector. Laws in Florida and other states regulate the way that debt collection agencies can communicate with individuals, and the court of appeals found that the collector did not adhere to those laws.
The letter in question was believed to imply that an individual receiving the letter could call or write the agency to dispute a debt. However, the letter also contained wording on the reverse side that specifically stated, per the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, that any disputes have to be done in writing. The lower court ruled that the letter taken as a whole made it clear that recipients of the communication would have to argue they did not owe a particular debt via a letter.
However, the appellate court panel disagreed with the lower court and determined that the wording of the letter could confuse an “unsophisticated” consumer. While the panel stated that the suggestion to call the debt collector was simply an invitation to speak to the collection agency, it could potentially confuse some readers.
While communications from debt collectors may be more clear as a result of the ruling, consumers will likely continue to feel just as burdened by their debt as they did before. A bankruptcy attorney could help them explore the option of filing for bankruptcy in order to permanently resolve debt and regain sound financial footing.
Source: insideARM, “Debt Collector Loses FDCPA Appeal on Letter Language,” Patrick Lunsford, March 14, 2013