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Federal Appeals Court Rules Consumers May Dispute Debts Verbally as Well as in Writing


Under the FDCPA debt collectors are required to send a written notice at the time they begin collecting a debt to notify consumers of the right to dispute the debt. The FDCPA does not state whether the dispute must be in writing.

In a class action against the debt collector Absolute Collection Services, consumers sued claiming the debt collector’s notices violated the FDCPA because the notices stated that any dispute of the debt must be in writing.

But using the plain language of the FDCPA – which does not require a dispute to be in writing – the Fourth Circuit held that the dispute need not be in writing because the law states no such requirement.

Two other federal appeals courts, the Second and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals, have also previously ruled that the dispute may be verbal. Only one court, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, has ruled that the dispute must be in writing.

In the federal appeals court for Massachusetts, the First Circuit Court, there has not yet been a decision about whether a consumer’s dispute to a debt collector must be in writing.

The opinion for the case is available here: Clark v. Absolute Collection Services

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