Will You Know A “Dispute” When You See It?

Tomio Narita,
Simmonds & Narita LLP

How can a collector accurately identify, track, and respond to consumer disputes when the FDCPA does not define what a “dispute” is?  When Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously stated, “I know it when I see it,” in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964), he was not talking about consumer disputes.  But his catch phrase succinctly described how it can be a struggle to define common words in different contexts.  How exactly do you define a consumer “dispute”?  Are you sure you will know a dispute when you see it?

Collectors have to recognize when a consumer is disputing a debt so they can react appropriately.  But so far, nobody has managed to define what a “dispute” is under the FDCPA.  Consider for example whether any of the following statements qualify as a “dispute” by the consumer:

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