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11th Circuit Finds Debt Collection Letter Sent to Consumer's Attorney is a Communication Under the FDCPA

Debt collectors are required to follow certain rules created by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when communicating with debtors. The person who owes money must be advised of his or her rights regarding the debt, such as the right to dispute that the debt is owed and the right to request no further communication regarding the debt. Additionally, debt collectors must stop communicating with a debtor if that person is represented by an attorney.

This means that the debtor’s attorney will receive letters and other communications meant to attempt to collect the debt. Recently, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that even the communications a debt collector directs to an attorney must meet the standards of the FDCPA.

In Bishop v. Ross Earle & Bonan, P.A., the attorney of a debtor named Connie Bishop received a debt collection letter. The letter informed Bishop’s attorney that Bishop could dispute the debt within 30 days. However, the letter did not inform the attorney that this dispute must be made in writing and would not be effective if made over the phone.

The court held three things: First, the letter to the attorney qualified as a “communication” as the FDCPA defined it. Second, the debt collector must tell the consumer that his or her request to dispute the debt must be in writing. Finally, Bishop and her attorney had alleged sufficient facts to prove that the debt collector had engaged in false, deceptive, or misleading practices. Since a neither a competent attorney nor the least sophisticated consumer would have been aware that the request must be in writing after reading the letter, the company had violated the FDCPA.

The ruling will ensure that debt buyers and debt collectors follow the law regardless of the who they are addressing. While attorneys who regularly practice in FDCPA claims would be aware of this requirement, others who practice in more general areas may not. This ruling will prevent debt collectors from hiding information from attorneys who may not be as well-versed in the intricacies of FDCPA law.

At Loan Lawyers, our attorneys know the FDCPA inside and out. If you believe that one of your creditors is violating the law by harassing you or contacting you after you asked them to stop, you may be able to file a claim. Learn more about your options by attending a free consultation at one of our three conveniently-located offices. Contact us today by calling (888) FIGHT-13 (344-4813).