The Fair Debt Collection Practices act regulates the conduct of debt collectors. The statute provides a bona fide error defense for instances in which a debt collector violates the statute through a good faith mistake. The Court held, however, that ignorance of the law does not count as a good faith mistake under that defense.
In Jerman, the defendants, a law firm and one of its attorneys, filed a complaint in state court seeking to foreclose on the plaintiff’s property. They attached to the complaint a notice stating, among other things, that the debt would be assumed valid unless the plaintiff disputed the debt “in writing” within thirty days of receiving the notice. The district court held that the collector’s notice violated section 1692g(a)(3) of the FDCPA, but also held for defendants on the “bona fide error” defense, because the wording of the notice was based upon their error of law. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court, but the Supreme Court reversed.
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