Supreme Court Decision in Jerman v Carlisle, et al. Strikes a Win for Consumers

This week, the Supreme Court issued an opinion on whether the “bona fide error” defense applies to a mistake of law by the debt collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  

Among other things, the Act prohibits debt collectors from making false representations as to a debt’s character, amount, or legalstatus, §1692e(2)(A); communicating with consumers at an”unusual time or place” likely to be inconvenient to theconsumer, §1692c(a)(1); or using obscene or profane language or violence or the threat thereof, §§1692d(1), (2).See generally §§1692b–1692j; Heintz v. Jenkins, 514 U. S. 291, 292–293 (1995).

In this case, a foreclosure notice of default required the homeowner to contest the debt “in writing,” a mandate not authorized by the Act.

HELD: The bona fide error defense in §1692k(c) does not apply to a violation resulting from a debt collector’s mistaken interpretation of the legal requirements of the FDCPA.


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