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Beuter v. Canyon State Professional Services and Ronald Wilson

A debt collector that attempts to collect an amount that a consumer doesn’t owe is held strictly liable under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, unless the debt collector has in place procedures designed to prevent unintentional errors. The question in this Ninth Circuit appeal was whether a debt collector that admittedly has no such procedures can avoid liability anyway on the basis that it merely relied on its creditor-client.

In our brief, we argued that this proposed reliance-on-the-creditor defense would upset decades of settled interpretation of the Act, frustrate the intent of Congress, place scrupulous debt collectors at a competitive disadvantage, and have negative consequences for many consumers. In this case, and others pending on appeal at the same time, the Ninth Circuit rejected the debt collectors’ proposed defense. (The Ninth Circuit issued a more extensive opinion on this point in Reichert v. National Credit Systems, a related case also argued by Public Citizen.)