Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Provides Protections Even Without Dispute, Says Appeals Court
The court rejected an argument by the debt collector that a consumer must formally dispute a debt in order to be protected by the provisions of the FDCPA.
In this case, the consumer paid a medical bill in full shortly after it went into collections. The debt collector continued to try to collect from her anyway, threatening to report the account to credit bureaus even though she did not owe the debt any more.
The case went to trial, and the consumer prevailed. The debt collector then appealed. The appeals court affirmed the jury verdict in favor of the consumer.
The FDCPA makes it “unlawful for debt collectors to make false or deceptive statements in the course of their collection activities,” the court said.
Furthermore, “nothing in the text of the FDCPA suggests that a debtor’s ability to state a claim under [the FDCPA] is dependent upon the debtor first disputing the validity of the debt,” the court explained. A false statement is a false statement, and consumer debtors do not have to take any additional action to be protected against illegal debt collection.
Under the FDCPA, if a debt collector takes any action that is unfair, deceptive, or disrespectful, a consumer may be entitled to up to $1,000 in statutory damages, attorney fees, and actual damages such as emotional distress.
The full case is available here: Russell v. Absolute Collection Services
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