Thursday, September 26, 2013

consumer - debt collection - notice - debt disputed

Hillman v. NCO Financial Systems – ED Pa. – Sept. 25, 2013

Under the statute, a debt collector must send a consumer a written notice containing, inter alia,  a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.  15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a)(4) (emphasis added).

In his allegations, plaintiff focuses on the fact that the sentence of the Letter that begins, “If you notify this office in writing within 30 days . . . .” fails to contain the words “that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed.”

The flaw in plaintiff’s argument is that a consumer, as a matter of law, does not specifically need to identify a dispute in writing, as plaintiff claims, to exercise the right to verification. “[U]nder the FDCPA, requesting verification is sufficient to trigger a debt collector’s verification obligations. ‘Dispute’ is a term of art in FDCPA parlance that means a request to verify the existence of a debt.” Gruber v. Creditors’ Protection Service, No. 12-cv-1243, 2013 WL 2072976, at *2 (E.D. Wis. May 14, 2013) (citing DeKoven v. Plaza Assocs., 599 F.3d 578, 582 (7th Cir. 2010)). Because the consumer need not include the actual word “dispute” in a request for verification, defendant’s failure to instruct the consumer to do so is inconsequential.