Supreme Court Set to Resolve Conflict in FDCPA Laws
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is one of the most powerful consumer statutes that exist. The law provides consumers the ability to sue for damages when debt collectors use methods that are coercive, deceptive, or illegal, in the process of collecting a debt. There are so many ways that debt collectors can violate the act, most consumers are not even aware of when a violation has occurred.
The Statute of Limitations
However, the FDCPA has one provision that is not so consumer friendly: The statute of limitations (SOL). The SOL is the time limit that a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit, after which time, suit cannot be brought. For many types of cases, the SOL is up to four years, with some expiring in as short as two years. The FDCPA however, has an SOL of only one year.
Because of the many ways that the law can be violated, it is reasonable to have someone who may have been told something by a debt collector that is illegal, without the consumer knowing it.
A debt collector does not have to be insulting, use curse words, or make threats to violate the FDCPA. For example, a debt collector may (innocently or not) give a consumer legal information that is false or incorrect. It may even sound like the debt collector is being “helpful.” The consumer may not even realize that the information provided by the debt collector is false.
Supreme Court to Hear Time Limitations Case
Currently, a case is set to be heard by the Supreme Court to determine whether the restrictive one year SOL can be extended when a consumer, through no fault of his or her own, simply had no idea that the FDCPA had been violated.
The case arose from a collection lawsuit where the collector sued the consumer. The person who accepted service and notice of the lawsuit for the consumer was not authorized to do so, something the collector should have known. Thus, the consumer never knew about the suit.
Despite the lack of service, the collector proceeded to obtain a default judgment against the consumer. Obviously the consumer had no idea this had ever happened, since he had not been served with the lawsuit. He did not find out until the one year SOL had expired.
Some courts have agreed to extend the SOL where the Plaintiff is blameless and only discovered the violation after the one year limit, but other courts have not extended the time limit.
This creates a conflict that the Supreme Court is set to resolve in an upcoming case. The result will have a huge impact on FDCPA cases, but consumers should always be safe by seeing a consumer attorney whenever a debt collector gives any type of “advice,” and should always check credit reports to make sure that nothing is there (like judgments) that should not be.
If you are being harassed by debt collectors, the Miami consumer rights lawyers at Jacobs Legal can help you in enforcing your rights under the FDCPA.