FDCPA Provides For 30-Day Dispute Period
- April 4, 2013
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In a recent consumer debt matter Stokes v. Transworld Systems Inc., an individual, Pamela Stokes, brought a class action suit against Defendant Transworld Systems, Inc. (TSI) for claimed violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) following her receipt of collection letters she received. Stokes claimed that reference to the 30 day FDCPA dispute period in a second collection letter and reference to a legitimate debt in a third collection letter were misleading and deceptive and would confuse the “lease sophisticated consumer” about how to dispute the validity of the alleged debt. The first letter from TSI set forth an amount due and informed Stokes of a 30 day notice to dispute the debt and how to do so. The second letter explained that, if the debt was not disputed within the 30 day dispute period set forth by the FDCPA, it would be assumed valid and collection efforts would continue. After the 30 day FDCPA dispute period expired, Stokes attorney sent a letter via facsimile, certified and regular mail pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 1592c(c) demanding TSI cease and desist all collection efforts immediately, cease direct communications with Stokes, disputing the debt, demanding verification of the debt and the name and address of the original creditor. The following day, TSI sent a letter directly to Stokes seeking payment in order to avoid transfer of the matter to telephone collectors. The purpose of the FDCPA is to protect consumers by eliminating abusive practices by debt collectors, protect debt collectors using legal collection methods. The courts, in effecting the acts intent, have reviewed the creditors’ actions under the “least sophisticated debtor” perspective. Communication is deceptive within the FDCPA if it can reasonably be read with 2 or more different meanings and one would be considered inaccurate. The primary question in determining FDCPA violations is whether the “notice fails to convey the required information clearly and effectively and thereby makes the least sophisticated consumer uncertain as to the meaning of the message” Weiss v. Zwicker, 664 F. Supp. 2d 214, 216 (E.D.N.Y. 2009) Not every letter sent from a debt collector within the 30 day dispute period violates the Act. A follow-up letter need not restate the rights set forth in the initial validation notice, nor must it set forth the expiration date of the 30 day dispute period. Simply put, follow-up letters must not confuse the least sophisticated debtor as to their rights under the FDCPA. Therefore, the actions of TSI were held to be valid and Stokes matter was dismissed. If you are facing mounting debt or believe a debt collector is pursuing you inappropriately, you should consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney immediately in order to protect your rights. For more information regarding how the FDCPA can protect you from harassment and unfair collection practices or for information regarding bankruptcy, foreclosure or other consumer debt matters in New Jersey visit TheNJBankruptcyAttorney.com. This blog is for information purposes only and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney regarding your specific matter. We are a Debt Relief Agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief.