If you are sued for a debt in Washington there are several strict requirements the collector must follow. For example, you can only be sued in the county (or sometimes City) where you live, or where you signed the contract giving rise to the debt. There are many such rules that, if a debt collector breaks, they may have to pay you damages, pay for your attorney’s fees, and lose the ability to collect interest and fees on the debt, regardless of whether you owe it or not. However, while there are several rules that apply to all debt collectors, there is a special set of rules that apply only to a subset of debt collectors called “debt buyers.”

What Is a Debt Buyer in the State of Washington?

Under Washington law, a debt buyer is defined as “a person or entity that is engaged in the business of purchasing delinquent or charged off claims for collection purposes, whether it collects the claims itself or hires a third party for collection or an attorney for litigation in order to collect such claims.” 

Special Steps That Debt Buyers Have to Take When Filing a Lawsuit Against You.

If a debt collector takes a “legal action,” against someone, they must take special steps that don’t apply to other types of collectors. While “legal action” is not defined under Washington law, it clearly applies to filing a lawsuit and other parts of litigating a collection lawsuit. 

If a debt collector files a lawsuit against you, the Complaint (the initial pleading that starts a lawsuit) must have several disclosures that are not required of other collectors:

  1. That the lawsuit is being brought by, or for the benefit of, a debt buyer for collection purposes;
  2. The date the debt was purchased;
  3. Who the debt buyer purchased the debt from;
  4. That the debt collector may have purchased this debt for less than the value stated in the Complaint;
  5. If the debt was at any time sold without any representation or warranty of accuracy, a statement to that effect; and
  6. That the lawsuit is being commenced within, and is not barred by, the statute of limitations.

What Happens When a Debt Buyer Sues You for a Debt That Is Not for Credit Card Debt?

If a debt buyer sues you for a debt that is not for credit card debt, they must attach to the Complaint a copy of the original contract or agreement that shows you owe the debt and contains your signature, or if the claim is based on an electronic transaction they must provide a copy of the records created during the electronic transaction evidencing your agreement to the debt along with the date and terms of the transaction. 

What Happens When a Debt Buyer Sues You for a Credit Card Debt?

If the debt buyer sues you for a credit card debt they must either provide you with an agreement showing you agreed to the debt containing your signature, or a copy of the most recent monthly statement recording a purchase transaction, payment, or other extension of credit, as well as a copy of the credit card agreement if they claim breach of contract. 

How to Determine if the Plaintiff in Your Case Is a Debt Buyer?

If you have been sued for a debt and do not know if the collector is a debt buyer, you can often conduct a Google search to determine if the plaintiff in your case is a debt buyer. Some of the largest debt buyers in the United States are: 

  • Encore Capital Group
  • Midland Funding, Midland Credit Management
  • Asset Acceptance Capital Corporation
  • Portfolio Recovery Associates
  • Sherman Financial
  • Alegis LVNV
  • Resurgent Capital Service
  • Square Two Financial
  • CACH, Asta Funding
  • Cavalry SPV
  • eCAST Settlement Corp.
  • Fourscore 
  • Ophrys
  • Unifund Corporation

Final Thoughts

Debt buyers make up a significant portion of the consumer finance industry. Not only are they behind a large portion of debt collection suits, 12.5% of tradlines reported to consumer reporting agencies come from debt buyers. Dealing with debt buyers can be impactful to not only your bank account, but to your credit score. I have successfully represented many people who have been sued by or otherwise came into contact with debt buyers. If you have been contacted by a debt buyer, or any type of debt collector, you can set up a consultation to go over your options by calling Navigate Law Group today. 

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Every legal issue is very unique. Accordingly, the information in this blog is intended as general education material and not as legal advice. If you think you may have a legal issue, you should consult an attorney.