Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Collection Notices: Style Matters

Collection notices can be tricky. There’s a good chance that people aren’t even going to open up the envelope and see the notice. And, if they do open it, once they realize it’s a collection notice, many people are apt to just toss the notice out without really reading it. To get around this and make it more likely that people read these notices, many debt collectors will use large fonts, bold texts, or bright colors to try and draw attention. What a lot of debt collectors don’t realize, however, is that, in some cases, they may be violating compliance laws by resorting to these tactics.

It’s sort of a thin line to walk, but if it can be proven or argued that the use of bright colors, out-there fonts, or other such “attention-attractors” confuse or mislead the receiver in any way, the debt collection agency that sent the notice could find itself in trouble. In fact, some states even have their own very specific laws about which font sizes, text colors, and the like can be used, so before you embellish a collection notice with any “special touches,” brush up on state law.   

Believe it or not, over the years, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act has dealt with many complaints related to font sizes, colors, and other such stylistic issues. In one case, for example, a company got in trouble for making threatening statements bolder and easier to read than statements related to the consumer’s rights. If you don’t want to find your stylistic choices called into question and potentially becoming a cause for complaint, then it’s best to follow a few guidelines for all of your collection notices.

To begin with, you’ll probably want to avoid placing any requests for money or information about what will happen if a debt remains unpaid in bold fonts or in bright colors. Doing so could potentially be seen as you trying to “overshadow” the consumer’s rights, which also must be printed on the collection notice. The validation notice required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act should be very clear and easy to read and should not be smaller in size than any other part of the notice in order to avoid complaints. Furthermore, if you intend to put the validation notice on the backside of the letter, there must be text that directs the consumer to where to find this notice. The bottom line is that this notice cannot be hidden or obscured in any way.

Finally, as mentioned, there are specific laws governing font size and other stylistic choices that vary from state to state. As such, before you send out any letter, it’s best to check the laws for your state and/or the state where the letter will be sent to ensure that you are in full compliance with the law.

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