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Supreme Court rules on legal definition of debt collectors

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled unanimously [opinion, PDF] in Monday Henson v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc [docket] that a company may collect debts that it purchased for its own account without triggering the statutory definition of "debt collector" provided under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) [text]. The FDCPA defines debt collectors as "any person who regularly collects ... debts owed or due ... another." Petitioners argued that if Congress intended to exempt debt owners such as Santander it would have used the present partciple "owing." Justice Neil Gorsuch [official profile], writing his first opinion for the court, opined that this argument "does not follow as a matter of good grammar, let alone ordinary meaning." Relying on Justice Antonin Scalia [official profile], he also disagreed with petitioner's policy arguments stating, "it is not this court's role to rewrite a constitutionally valid statutory text based on speculation about how Congress might have intended to address the ... purchasing [of] defaulted debt." In its ruling, Santander Consumer USA, and toher companies, are free to employ their own tactics to collect on debts bought.

The US Supreme Court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in the case in mid-January. In this case the company [JURIST report] was not providing a collection services to lenders, but collecting on debts they purchased. The case was appealed from a decision [opinion, PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website].

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