Federal appeals court applies brakes to debt collection agencies

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit serves Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. A recent opinion issued by the court in a debt collection case could well have a positive impact on Philadelphia consumers.

The court said that a second debt collection letter sent to a consumer within 30 days of the initial letter "overshadowed and contradicted" the first letter. Those who have received one of those first letters know that it states the amount the collector claims you owe and contains a notice that you have 30 days in which to dispute the claim in writing.

The second letter in this case (Laniado v. Certified Credit & Collection Bureau) urged the woman who received it to call the collection agency or visit their website if she disputed the debt. The problem is that if she called the company or visited their website, she would not be using a legally effective means of disputing the debt.

The company could then at the end of the 30 days after the initial letter was received say that she has not disputed the debt. Again, she is required to dispute the debt in writing. A phone call is not considered a viable alternative.

InsideARM, a publication that caters to collection agencies, advises debt collectors in Pennsylvania to simply send out that first letter and hold off on a follow-up until 30 days have passed.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau urges people who dispute or question a debt to dispute it in writing within 30 days of receiving that initial letter.

If a collection agency is harassing you, an experienced Philadelphia consumer protection attorney can help you stop the abuse.

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