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Misrepresenting the amount of a debt

The best Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) cases are simple. And one of the simplest type of cases is a debt collector collecting the wrong amount. In legalese, a debt collector who tries to collect the wrong amount is “misrepresenting the amount of the debt.” This violates 15 U.S.C. 1692e(2)(a) of the FDCPA. That section states:

A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:

(2) The false representation of—

(A) the character, amount, or legal status of any debt[.]

     Misrepresentation of the character or legal status of a debt can be complicated to prove. Misrepresenting the amount of a debt is much easier.

            If a debt collector tries to collect more than is owed, they have misrepresented the amount. If they try to collect too little, they have misrepresented the amount. If they try to collect two different amounts for the same debt, it is likely at least one amount is misrepresented.

            It is obvious why it is unlawful to collect too much but why is collecting too little wrong as well? Here is an example:

            Debt Collector Dave tells Consumer Cathy she owes $400 even though he knows she allegedly owes $1000. She scrapes together all her money and pays $400. Dave then says he has made a mistake and Cathy still owes $600. Cathy would justifiably feel she has been conned.

            Debt collectors need to be accurate each time they try to collect money. Consumers cannot make informed decisions without accurate information. The FDCPA allows consumers to sue debt collectors who fail to meet their obligations under the law.