A recent Appellate Court decision holds debt buyers accountable under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). In Janetos v. Fulton Friedman & Gullace, LLP and Asset Acceptance, No. 15-1859, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that debt buyer Asset Acceptance was liable for the unfair collection practices of its collection agent. Opinion available at http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&Path=Y2016/D04-07/C:15-1859:J:Hamilton:aut:T:fnOp:N:1733811:S:0. There, the consumer filed a lawsuit explaining that Asset Acceptance’s collection agent did not accurately disclose the identity of the consumer’s current creditor. Even though the collection letter was sent by the collector, the court found that Asset was also responsible. Because Asset is a debt buyer, it is a debt collector subject to the FDCPA. Moreover, debt buyers can be liable for the bad acts of their agents because:
We believe this is a fair result because an entity that is itself a “debt collector”—and hence subject to the FDCPA—should bear the burden of monitoring the activities of those it enlists to collect debts on its behalf.
This decision is good news for consumers. By holding debt buyers accountable, the court has helped ensure that the buck is not passed. It also confirms that the consumer has the right to know:
(1) who owns the debt;
(2) who is trying to collect the debt; and
(3) whether payment will resolve the entire matter.
This helps consumers because, assuming a payment is made, the consumer will be able to verify that the actual debt is truly resolved. As the Court stated, when collection letters do not properly identify who currently owns the debts, “a consumer wishing to verify that a payment would extinguish her obligation could not contact the current creditor to confirm that paying the letter-writer would be the proper course of action.”
If you are receiving collection letters or phone calls that do not properly identify who you owe money to, contact a lawyer for assistance.