Court Says Debt Collectors Can’t Send Misleading Collection Letters
Debt collection letters should provide information about the original debtor, how much is owed and how to pay or dispute the debt. However, many debt collection agency letters contain misleading or incorrect information designed to confuse and intimidate debtors and a court recently ruled that when that happens – debtors can sue.
What is “misleading” language?
That was the question before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Plaintiffs in the case argued that the collection agency, Encore Receivable Management, Inc., sent them dunning letters that contained false and misleading statements saying that their credit card agreements had been revoked and that the language violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In deciding what constituted misleading language, the court reasoned:
Confusing language in a dunning letter can have an intimidating effect by making the recipient feel that he is in over his head and had better pay up rather than question the demand for payment. The intimidating effect may have been magnified in this case by the reference to revocation, which might have suggested to an unsophisticated consumer that any right he might have to challenge the demand for payment had been extinguished by the revocation of his contract with the issuer, the original creditor.
In other words, creditors have to be truthful and straight-forward when it comes to collecting a debt – and if they don’t, you have a right to sue them.
FDCPA lawsuits: When do you have a case?
In addition to being able to sue debt collectors that attempt to mislead, legal experts say that debtors also may have a case against debt collectors who harass them. Most original creditors try to collect debts on their own. When they can’t collect, they sell the debt to what’s known in the industry as debt buyers. These debt buyers use any and all tactics to collect a debt, including calling family members, neighbors, co-workers – and even your boss in order to embarrass you. Those tactics violate the FDCPA and debtors will more likely than not have a case against the debt buyers and may be entitled to money damages.
Debtors generally don’t have a case against the original creditor (Citibank, Macy’s, etc.) unless their conduct is egregious. However, every situation is different and depends upon the facts and circumstances of that case. If you’ve been harassed by a creditor, contact an experienced collection attorney to discuss your situation and evaluate your options. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.
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