A federal appeals court has found a consumer friendly letter to have violated the FDCPA, when the debt collector offered consumers the opportunity to call-in with any questions or if the consumer "felt" that they did not owe the debt.  With such an offer, the court ruled that the letter was confusing since the offer to call could somehow negate the consumer's FDCPA obligation to dispute a debt in writing.

In Caprio v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group, LLC, --- F.3d ----, 2013 WL 765169 (3d Cir. Mar. 1, 2013), the defendant sent a validation notice that included "standard" initial notice provisions about disputing a debt in writing.  The letter also invited the consumer to call with any questions, or to call if the consumer felt the amount being collected wasn't owed.  The problem part of the letter read:  "If we can answer any questions, or if you feel you do not owe this amount, please call us toll free at 800-984-9115 or write us at the above address."  (Emphasis in original).

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that the quoted statement violated the FDCPA because it suggested a verbal dispute could trigger the consumer's verification rights and that plaintiff could dispute the debt by making a telephone call.  Such a statement would leave the least sophisticated consumer uncertain of his rights- verbal or written to assert a dispute

Considering the Third Circuit found "confusion" here, check your first FDCPA notice and make sure that there is nothing internally inconsistent.

This ruling proves the adage: No good deed (here offering a verbal dispute opportunity) goes unpunished.

Please call if you have any questions.

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