Debt Buyers Not Subject to FDCPA, says SCOTUS

This week, in a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that debt buyers are not subject to Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Justice Gorsuch wrote the opinion.

The opinion stated, “A company may collect debts that it purchased for its own account, like Santander did here, without triggering the statutory definition in dispute. By defining debt collectors to include those who regularly seek to collect debts “owed . . . another,” the statute’s plain language seems to focus on third party collection agents regularly collecting for a debt owner—not on a debt owner seeking to collect debts for itself.”

In rejecting one of the petitioners’ arguments, Gorsuch wrote, “But it is not this Court’s job to rewrite a constitutionally valid text under the banner of speculation about what Congress might have done had it faced a question that, on everyone’s account, it never faced.”

AFSA joined with other trades in an amicus brief in the case. The amicus argued, “The FDCPA’s history and purpose confirm what the statutory text plainly provides. The legislative history makes clear that the Act was intended to cover independent debt collectors—third parties that collect debts owed to someone else. Members of Congress pointed to evidence that existing state and federal laws were insufficient to address complaints about independent debt collectors’ collection activity. And members consistently distinguished those independent collectors from the types of parties that, by design, would not be covered: banks, retailers, credit unions, and finance companies. Yet petitioners’ reading of the FDCPA would sweep in such companies, despite the care Congress exercised in excluding them.”