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Court: Oral dispute of debt not grounds for ceasing communication

Companies that are trying to collect debt from consumers are required to comply with strict rules that are set by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FDCPA is quite extensive, but it is in place to let debtors and creditors what actions are and are not permitted when it comes to collecting debt.

It is not unusual for disputes to arise between consumers and creditors, and they typically involve one or multiple alleged violations of the FDCPA. Recently, for example, a collection agency was cited in a lawsuit that accused the company of failing to cease communication with a consumer after she had notified the company of her intent to dispute his outstanding balance. 

When a consumer notifies a debt collector that he or she is disputing the debt or refuses to pay it, the FDCPA states that communication from the collector must stop, although there are exceptions.

In this case, the woman argued that her verbal notice of her intent to dispute should have put a stop to collection efforts. However, she reportedly received five more calls from the agency in the next few months, which she claims was a violation of the FDCPA. 

But the judge in this particular instance ruled that the woman's verbal notification did not meet the requirements to cease efforts to collect debt. Had she submitted her intent to dispute the claim in writing, the judge noted, the agency would have been prohibited from continuing communication. 

Unfortunately, other courts have made different rulings in this very same situation. In other cases, courts have ruled agencies were, in fact, violating the FDCPA by continuing to contact debtors who have orally submitted a dispute.

What this case and others like it can tell us is that claims involving alleged violations of the FDCPA are rarely as clear-cut people think. They are often legally complex and very difficult to navigate without the support and guidance of a legal representative. It can be crucial for parties who are being accused of any violation to work with an attorney to defend against the allegations and work to secure a satisfactory resolution. 

Source: Inside ARM, "Judge Rules for Debt Collector: Oral Disputes Do Not Trigger Cessation of Collection Efforts Under FDCPA," Patrick Lunsford, Jan. 15, 2015

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