The FDCPA (15 USC 1682j) bans the practice, called flat-rating, of creating the false belief in a consumer that a person other than the creditor is participating in the collection of the debt.  The prohibition was intended to bar a company that merely sells and sends form collection letters for a creditor (normally at a flat rate) from creating the false and supposedly more intimidating impression that the creditor had hired a real collection agency to collect the debt.  This decision affirms a summary judgment for defendants on a 1682j claim finding that the organization did more than simply send letters—it responded to debtors’ calls and letters, maintained a website and drafted its own correspondence with debtors.  This was enough participation in the collection efforts to make it a true debt collector even though it reassigned the debts back to the creditor for collection after sending only two collection letters to the debtor if it received no response to that correspondence.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (O’Scannlain, J.); April 17, 2018; 2018 WL 1801582