On August 18th, a federal appeals court reinstated a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) lawsuit against a law firm that misstated the principal and interest due on a credit card loan in a collection effort.
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from making false statements when collecting debts. It also states that any such false statement would be considered “material.” However, the FDCPA does not specifically define the term “material.” As a result, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit focused on that question when issuing a ruling in the case of Afewerki v. Anaya Law Group. The lawsuit came after the Anaya Law Group of Westlake Village, California attempted to collect on a debt from Robel Afewerki, who owed $26,916.08 on a loan with a 9.65 percent interest rate.
The Anaya Law Group sued Afewerki in state court, stating that he owed $29,916.08, which is $3,000 higher than the loan. The firm also misstated the interested rate, saying that it was 9.965 percent, which is 0.315 percent higher than the rate. Afewerki sued the firm under the FDCPA, but a district court held for the firm on summary judgment, said the misstatements were not material.
The Ninth Circuit Court disagreed and vacated that ruling, saying the misstatements were material based on how the “least sophisticated debtor” might react to the misstatements. The court said the least sophisticated debtor in Afewerki’s position, “may well have simply paid the amount demanded in the complaint and would have overpaid by approximately $3,000.”
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