U.S. Supreme Court Holds Debt Purchaser Collecting Its Own Debt Is Not Subject to FDCPA

A purchaser of a defaulted debt who then seeks to collect the debt for itself is not a “debt collector” subject to the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act under an opinion delivered today by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue before the Court was whether a purchaser of defaulted debt meets the FDCPA’s definition of a “debt collector” as one who “regularly collects or attempts to collect . . . debts owed or due . . . another.” 15 U. S. C. §1692a(6).

Here, Santander Consumer USA Inc. acquired defaulted loans from CitiFinancial Auto and then began to collect on those loans. The petitioners argued this activity made Santander a debt collector subject to the FDCPA.  The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed because the debt purchaser was not seeking to collect a debt “owed . . . another.” The Supreme Court affirmed in a unanimous decision.

The opinion did not consider whether a purchaser of defaulted debt is engaged “in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts.” §1692a(6).

A copy of the decision in Henson v. Santander Consumer USA Inc. is available here.

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Donald Maurice provides counsel to the financial services industry, successfully litigating matters in the state and federal courts in individual and class actions. He has successfully argued before the Third, Fourth and Eighth Circuit U.S. Courts of Appeals, and has represented the financial services industry before several courts including as counsel for amicus curiae before the United States Supreme Court. He counsels clients in regulatory actions before the CFPB, and other federal and state regulators and in the development and testing of debt collection compliance systems. Don is peer-rated AV by Martindale-Hubbell, the worldwide guide to lawyers. In addition to being a frequent speaker and author on consumer financial services law, he serves as outside counsel to RMA International, on the governing Board of Regents of the American College of Consumer Financial Services Lawyers and on the Governing Committee of the Conference on Consumer Finance Law. From 2014 to 2017, he chaired the ABA's Bankruptcy and Debt Collection Subcommittee.