August 31, 2017 Articles

Henson v. Santande: Debt Purchasers Versus Debt Collectors

Returning to textualism, the U.S. Supreme Court held that debt purchasers collecting on their own debts fall outside one definition of "debt collector" under the FDCPA.

Jason Tompkins and Jonathan Hoffmann – August 31, 2017

Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Henson v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc., 137 S. Ct. 810 (2017), the Court’s second Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) opinion of the October 2016 term (the other being Midland Funding, LLC v. Johnson, No. 16-348 (2017)) and the first of Justice Gorsuch’s tenure as a Supreme Court justice. The Court addressed whether “individuals and entities who regularly purchase debts originated by someone else and then seek to collect those debts for their own account” fall under one of the FDCPA’s definitions of a debt collector. As the Court put it, “Does the [FDCPA] treat the debt purchaser in that scenario more like the repo man or the loan originator?” Henson v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc., No. 16-349, slip op. at 2 (2017). In a unanimous landmark decision unwaveringly based upon the statutory text itself, the Supreme Court held that such debt purchasers fall outside the scope of the FDCPA.

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