There's a lot of commotion about validation notices in New Jersey right now.

Debt collectors have seen several cases questioning the language they use in validation notices. Specifically, inviting the consumer to call with any questions about their debt. According to consumers, the language is misleading. In Ferrulli v. BCA Financial Services, we find out what one court thinks about the potential fdcpa violations.

The Background

The plaintiff, Ferrulli, accrued a medical debt that was eventually passed to collections. In the first letter sent to Ferrulli, BCA Financial Services included the 1692g validation notice. The notice reads specifies that  the consumer has 30 days to dispute the debt in writing, if desired. The letter also stated the consumer could speak to an account representative by phone if they had any questions.

According to the lawsuit, that sentence misled the consumer. Allegedly, the consumer was confused as to whether the debt could be disputed over phone. As a result, it violated the FDCPA.

The Decision

When the court considered the case, they referenced several cases addressing the same matter. Here was the sentence used by BCA:

“If you have any questions regarding this debt you may speak to an account representative by calling our office.”

What the court found, based on previous litigation, was that the letter sent by BCA was indeed compliant.

The language used, they said, "neither supersed[es] or swallow[s] up the instructions about how to dispute the debt, nor provid[es] an alternative method for that purpose.”

In layman's terms, the court determined that the way BCA worded the validation notice was acceptable because there was no indication the consumer should contact them in order to dispute the debt.

Based on the understanding of the least sophisticated consumer, the court determined the language was sound.

What It Means For You

It's important to reference past and present litigation as often as possible in the collections industry. That's why we share these cases with you each week such as this fdcpa violations case. We know there are so many agencies making a genuine effort to stay compliant. In the sometimes volatile world of debt collection, that can be a challenge. In addition to this series, our suite of compliant and productive products might also be able to help. Learn more here!