Third Judge in D.N.J. Rules Language Inviting Calls with Questions in Validation Letter Does Not Mislead Consumers About Writing Requirement for Disputes

Debt collectors have seen a flurry of cases in the District of New Jersey alleging that a validation letter that contains language inviting the consumer to call the debt collector with questions allegedly violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The argument is that this confuses the consumer into thinking they can orally dispute their debt even though section 1692g of the FDCPA requires that disputes be in writing. In yet another case, Ferrulli v. BCA Financial Services, Inc., Case No. 17-cv-13177 (D.N.J. Sep. 28, 2018), the court does not agree.

Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff incurred a medical debt owed to Saint Barnabas Medical Center, which referred the debt to BCA Financial Services, Inc. (BCA) for collection. In its initial letter to plaintiff, BCA included the 1692g validation notice that tracks the statutory language, including, “if you notify this office in writing within 30 days…” (emphasis added). The letter also contained a sentence that stated, “If you have any questions regarding this debt you may speak to an account representative by calling our office.”

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