On June 12, 2017, the United States Supreme Court held that purchasers of debts originated by another are not “debt collectors” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Henson v. Santander Consumer USA Inc., No. 16–349, 2017 WL 2507342 (U.S. June 12, 2017). Justice Gorsuch, in his first opinion, writes the Court found it “hard to disagree with the Fourth Circuit’s interpretive handiwork.” The opinion came down to a textual and grammatical interpretation of Congress’s 1977 statute. A unanimous court decided respondent Santander did not qualify as a debt collector under the FDCPA because it does not regularly seek to collect debts “owed . . . another.” Id. at *3.
In Henson, four Maryland consumers, the petitioners, brought action against Santander. The petitioners obtained car loans from CitiFinancial Auto and subsequently defaulted on those loans. Santander purchased the defaulted loans from CitiFinancial Auto and then attempted to collect on the loan in ways the consumers alleged were prohibited under the FDCPA.