FDCPA: Fourth Circuit Holds Consumers May Orally Dispute Debts

On January 31st, 2014, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held in Clark v. Absolute Collection Service, Inc. that the FDCPA does not require a consumer to dispute a debt in writing.  The Plaintiff in Clark brought a putative class action against Absolute Collection Service, Inc. (“ACS”), claiming that ACS violated Section 1692g(a)(3) of the FDCPA by stating in its collection letter that debtors could only dispute the validity of their debt in writing.  Relying on ACS’s argument that Section 1692g(a)(3) contains an inherent writing requirement, the district court dismissed Plaintiff’s claim.

Upon appeal, the Fourth Circuit Court was asked to decide whether Section 1692g(a)(3) permits an oral dispute, or whether it imposes a writing requirement.  The Third Circuit had previously held that Section 1692g(a)(3) imposes a writing requirement, while the Second and Ninth Circuits found that it did not.  The Fourth Circuit ultimately agreed with the Second and the Ninth Circuits, thus finding that Section 1692g(a)(3) permits consumers to orally dispute the validity of a debt.  Based on this decision, the Court remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings.

To learn more about this case and the FDCPA requirements, contact Joe Messer at (312) 334-3440, or at jmesser@messerstrickler.com.