In the case Henson et al. v. Santander Consumer USA Inc.,the petitioners claimed that Santander, who had bought a number of defaulted vehicle loans from CitiFinancial Auto, had to abide by the rules and regulations set out by the FDCPA as debt collectors, not loan originators who were trying to collect a debt for themselves. Any entity, bank, or credit union that purchases a defaulted loan is not, under the letter of the law, considered a debt collector, and thereby not subject to the rules and regulations set in place by FDCPA.
Gorsuch displayed his writing skills in an opinion that began with a lament about "disruptive dinnertime calls, downright deceit and more" that debt collectors sometimes employ.
"So a company collecting purchased default debt for its own account - like Santander - would hardly seem to be barred from qualifying as a creditor under the statute's plain terms", Gorsuch wrote, adding that only Congress has the power to change that if lawmakers want to do so.
You might also be interested in.. In its opinion, the court noted that it might be perfectly reasonable to think that the FDCPA should apply to everyone who collects debts but said that is not how Congress wrote the law that established the act.
The court found that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits debt collectors from harrassing or publicly shaming debtors, doesn't apply to banks.
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The opinion did not consider whether a purchaser of defaulted debt is engaged "in any business the principal objective of which is the collection of any debts". It exempted banks and auto companies that try to collect on unpaid loans they've made. The plaintiffs said that unscrupulous debt collectors could evade the law merely by buying the debt.
The case before the court - Henson v. Santander Consumer - was filed on behalf of consumers who financed cars through a Citi subsidiary, then defaulted on the loans.
The $11.4 billion-dollar debt collection industry is one of the top sources of complaints to state attorneys general and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The word "owed" they said, is a past participle of the verb "to owe", which would encompass the attempted collection of any debt previously owed to another.
On Monday, Gorsuch wrote that the law does not distinguish between original lenders and debt buyers.
"The proper role of the judiciary", he concluded, is "to apply, not amend, the work of the People's representatives".
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