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Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC, Violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act In How It Reported Debts To Credit Reporting Agencies

An Appellate Court recently ruled that debt collector Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC, violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act when it reported a debt to a credit reporting agency without stating that the consumer had disputed the debt. In Evans v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, the court stated, "The FDCPA makes clear that ‘[a] debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.’”

The court stated that federal law, specifically 15 U.S.C. § 1692e, prohibits: “Communicating or threatening to communicate to any person credit information which is known or which should be known to be false, including the failure to communicate that a disputed debt is disputed.”

The consuemrs in Evans case each sent a letter to Portfolio Recovery Associates which stated “the amount reported is not accurate.” Despite receiving the these letters, PRA still reported the plaintiffs’ debts to credit reporting agencies without ever giving notice that the debt amounts were being disputed. This action is a clear violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, § 1692e(8).

While true, § 1692e(8) does not define “dispute” or provide a procedure for consumers to follow to dispute their debt, the ordinary meaning of “dispute” is clear. According to Merriam–Webster Dictionary, the word “dispute” is defined as “to call into question or cast doubt upon.” When the plaintiffs said “the amount reported is not accurate,” they “call[ed] into question” the amount PRA claimed they owed. In doing this, the plaintiffs initiated their dispute of the debt.

There is simply no other way to interpret the language of the plaintiff’s dispute. The Appellate Court also noted that each of the district courts below arrived at the same conclusion:

  • Paz v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, No. 15-cv-5073, 2016 WL 6833932, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 21, 2016);
  • Evans v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, No. 15-cv-4498, 2016 WL 6833930, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 20, 2016)
  • Bowse v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, 218 F.Supp.3d 745, 751 (N.D. Ill. 2016)
  • Gomez v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, No. 15-cv-4499, 2016 WL 3387158, at *3 (N.D. Ill. June 20, 2016)

Two other courts also addressed the meaning of the same statement:

  • Baranowski v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, No. 15-cv-2939, 2018 WL 1534967, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 29, 2018)
  • Flores v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, No. 15-cv-2443, 2017 WL 5891032, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 29, 2017)

PRA claims the plaintiff’s letters did not introduce a dispute because “there was nothing ‘false, deceptive or misleading’ about what PRA did.” According to PRA, “[t]he record shows that these plaintiffs owed the debts and the amounts stated were accurate.”

However, the Appellate Court stated that argument fails because under Keele v. Wexler, 149 F.3d 589, 595 (7th Cir. 1998), “our task is to interpret the words of Congress, not add to them.” Section 1692e(8) does not require an individual’s dispute to be valid or even reasonable. Instead, the plaintiff must simply make clear that they dispute the debt. DeKoven v. Plaza Assocs., 599 F.3d 578, 582 (7th Cir. 2010) asserts “[A] consumer can dispute a debt for ‘no reason at all ….”

Indeed, “[g]iven the FDCPA’s ‘comprehensive and reticulated statutory scheme, involving clear definitions, precise requirements, and particularized remedies,’ the absence of an explicit pre-suit validation requirement is telling.” We decline PRA’s invitation to read into § 1692e(8) a requirement that is not in the text."

At the Wilcox Law Firm, P.C., we are investigating situations where Portfolio Recovery Associates is reporting false information on people's credit reports. If you have a dispute with PRA, you should immediately consult with our collection harassment lawyer.

Call (888) 468-7608 to schedule your free consultation with our legal team today.