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Received Confusing Collection Letter?

Collection Letters Unfairly Confusing?

The Court Says, “YES”!

With collection agency harassment running rampant, it’s important to note that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) covers more than collectors calling and being inappropriate over the phone.   The FDCPA was written to protect consumers from all manner of communications, including collection letters and other written correspondence.  Furthermore, it’s not always just blatant harassment that falls under the FDCPA.

Let’s take a look at a recent Third Circuit Court of Appeals case concerning a collection letter.  This is an excerpt from the collection letter sent by Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group, LLC:
If we can answer any questions, or if you feel you do not owe this amount, please call us toll free at 888-984-8115 or write us at the above address.  This is an attempt to collect a debt.  Any information obtained will be used for that purpose.  (NOTICE: SEE REVERSE SIDE FOR IMPORTANT INFORMATION.)

The statement pretty straight forward to me, if I received the collection letter and wanted to dispute this debt, I could call or write to do so.  They were even kind enough to give me a toll-free number that I could reach them at in order to do so.  Everything’s great until you actually flip the collection letter over to “see reverse side for important information.”

The reverse side of the collection letter states,

Pursuant to Sec. 809 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 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 in writing within 30 days from receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will: obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgement [sic] and mail you a copy of such judgement [sic] or verification. If you request this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice, this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.

Ray Caprio, the individual that was in receipt of this collection letter, filed suit under the FDCPA contending that the letter was unfairly confusing.  Specifically, the phrase “please call” followed by the number provided a way to call and dispute the debt.  The back of the letter however, provides that all debt disputes must be done in writing.

The Circuit Court found that while the “please call” language could be interpreted as nothing more than a mere invitation when taken in context of the entire collection letter.  However the court also noted that it is not their responsibility to decide what the correct reading of the collection letter should be.  The proper rule for interpreting the document is from the perspective of the “least sophisticated debtor.”  Essentially, if there’s a way to for a collection letter to be confusing, than under the FDCPA it is confusing, and a violation of Federal Law.

A lot of collection companies will send out intentionally confusing collection letters to try to keep consumers in the dark about their rights under the law.  Remember, the FDCPA doesn’t just apply to telephone harassment; ALL of their communications have to comply with their law.  If you feel a collection agency may have violated the FDCPA with their calls or collection letters to you, make sure you call a consumer protection attorney right away!

We have experience in reviewing Collection Letters and are happy to consult with anyone that needs assistance with their debt collection issues for free.  Debt Collectors Hate Us – Our Clients Love Us!

One Commment

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