February 23, 2016

CUA Law 3L, Daniel O'Connell, won an annual writing competition sponsored by the American College of Consumer Financial Services Lawyers (ACCFSL). Each year the ACCFSL seeks to recognize written contribution to the field of consumer financial services law. O'Connell's winning article was entitled Confounded Collectors, Confused Consumers: Time to Close the Circuit Split on Whether the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Requires a Consumer to Dispute a Debt in Writing.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provides that a debt collector must notify a consumer that it will assume a debt to be valid unless the consumer challenges the debt within thirty days. The FDCPA does not explicitly require the consumer to challenge the debt in writing. The Third Circuit requires written disputes, while the Second, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits permit oral disputes. This Comment discusses the reasoning and conclusions at play in this circuit split. The Comment argues that while both sides of the debate present meritorious arguments, permitting oral disputes for purposes of rebutting the debt collector's presumption of the debt's validity better advances the purpose of the FDCPA. The Comment proposes that amending the FDCPA to clarify that consumers may lodge oral or written disputes, and to explain the effect of each medium of dispute, would resolve the circuit split in a way that benefits both consumers and debt collectors.