An opinion out of the Fourth Circuit issued last month, Gruber v. Creditors' Protection Service, nixed a claim that the statement which debt collectors are required to include (more or less, apparently) verbatim on an early notice to consumers was insufficient for not being exactly as stated in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The FDCPA requires debt collectors to make the following disclosures:
(3) a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector;
Here is how the disclosure that was challenged reads:
Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office within 30 days from receiving this notice, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of the judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification.
Did you catch it? The disclosure lacks the clause "that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed" after the phrase "if you notify this office within 30 days from receiving this notice . . . ."
Here is where the "letter" and the "spirit" of law come in conflict. The FDCPA sets the required disclosures. It doesn't put the required words in quotations, true, but it does set the information necessary for a disclosure.
But does a person reading the challenged disclosure really not get the information the law is hoping to convey? If anything, the collector probably though a clause like "or any portion thereof" is legalese clutter, which it honestly sort of is. The effects of the two paragraphs are the same, because it's very clear what the "if you notify this office..." sentence is referring to. And anyway, the 4th Circuit founds that the disclosure was acceptable.
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