Getting anything in the mail from a debt collector makes for a stressful situation, especially if there isn’t money available to pay the bill. For some people, understanding the wording on these letters can lead to a misunderstanding about the expectations the creditor has for them. These letters have some standard wording that must be included for the request for payment to be valid.
One court has recently ruled that minor deviations from the standard wording in the validation notice don’t violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This might make it more difficult for Florida residents to fully understand the meaning of the statements, especially if the deviations vary from one debt collector to the next.
A lower court ruled that minor deviations in this required notice don’t violate the FDCPA, and a three-judge panel in the Seventh Court of Appeals agrees. The case at hand was made up of separate actions against four separate collection agencies. These agencies all used wording of the validation notice that omitted “that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed” from the second sentence of the notice.
The plaintiffs claimed the notice without the omitted words made it seem like consumers needed to request verification of the debt instead of disputing the debt. The judges granted a motion to dismiss the case that was made by the defendants. The court said that a consumer who requests validation of the debt is disputing it under the FDCPA.
This ruling serves a reminder that anyone who has creditors must make sure they fully understand the notices the creditors send to them. Anyone who doesn’t understand the wording of notices or who needs help dealing with creditors should obtain assistance to ensure they handle requests from creditors in a way that won’t harm their financial status in the future.
Source: insideARM.com, “Appeals Court Sides with Collectors in FDCPA Cases Challenging Letter Language” Patrick Lunsford, Jan. 31, 2014