On May 16, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held in Sheriff v. Gillie that an independent contractor to the Ohio Attorney General (OAG) did not mislead consumers in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when it used the OAG’s letterhead in correspondence with consumers in collecting debts owed to the State of Ohio. It also held that the contractor’s use of OAG letterhead did not violate the FDCPA’s prohibition on a debt collector’s use of a name other than its “true name” in debt collection communications.
The CFPB submitted an amicus brief in which it argued that whether the letters sent by the defendants violated the FDCPA should be judged from the perspective of “the least sophisticated consumer” and, because a reasonable jury could conclude that the letters violated the FDCPA, the Sixth Circuit had correctly reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the defendants. The Supreme Court’s determination that the letters “were truthful” is an implicit rejection of the CFPB’s argument that the letters created an issue of fact to be decided by a jury. The Court noted that as a result of such determination, it need not consider the argument “whether a potentially false or misleading statement should be viewed from the perspective of ‘the least sophisticated consumer.'”
For more on the Supreme Court’s decision, see our legal alert.