In Bishop v. Ross Earle & Bonan, P.A., the defendant debt collectors sent a debt collection letter to the plaintiff’s attorney.  The letter failed to inform the plaintiff that she must dispute the debt “in writing,” as required by § 1692g of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).  The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant alleging violations of this technical FDCPA requirement.  She also alleged that omitting the “in writing” requirement violated the Act’s prohibition in § 1692e against using “false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.”  The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim.  Plaintiff then appealed.

On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit addressed the following three issues:

  1. Whether a debt collection letter sent to the consumer’s attorney qualifies as a “communication with the consumer” so as to trigger § 1692g of the FDCPA.  The Eleventh Circuit answered in the affirmative, holding that such a letter is an “indirect” communication with the consumer.
  2. Whether omitting the “in writing” requirement amounts to a waiver of that requirement by the debt collector.  The Court rejected the defendants’ arguments and held that the clear language of the statute requires the debt collector to provide notice to the consumer of her right to dispute the debt in writing.
  3. Whether the omission of the “in writing” requirement states a claim for “false, deceptive, or misleading” behavior in violation of § 1692e.  Although the question of whether a particular communication is false or deceptive is a question for the jury, the Eleventh Circuit held that the plaintiff alleged facts sufficient to state a claim under § 1692e.