Collector - February 2016 - 44


COMPLIANCE

Sizing Up Your Collection Notices
Are you following the legal requirements for font sizes and colors?
By Andrew Pavlik

C

ollectors want consumers to read
the collection notices sent to
them about their past due debts.
To encourage this, a collector may opt
to include bright colors or differentsized fonts in those notices to get the
consumer's attention.
However, the use of bright colors or
different text sizes may pose compliance
problems for debt collectors if such
selections confuse or mislead a consumer,
or if such tactics overshadow the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act's initial validation
notice. Some states also have their own
notice requirements, some of which may
require the use of specific font sizes.

FDCPA CONSIDERATIONS
The FDCPA does not provide specific color
or font size requirements for collection
notices, so the option to use a brightly
colored font or varied font sizes may
seem like an attractive option to get the
consumer to read a collection notice.
However, while the act is silent on
the issue, over the years courts have
addressed font and color choices, often
revealing tactics that should be avoided.
For example, in one case, a court ruled
that a debt collection letter containing
prominent statements such as, "YOUR
ACCOUNT WILL BE TRANSFERRED
TO AN ATTORNEY IF IT IS UNPAID
AFTER THE DEADLINE DATE,"
overshadowed the FDCPA validation rights
of the consumer when the statement of the
consumer's rights was printed in small light
grey ink that was difficult to read.
Similarly, another court concluded that a
collection notice containing large, bold face,

44

red type statements such as, "Demand for
Immediate Payment," while the consumer's
validation rights were printed in grey ink
and very small font on the reverse side of
the notice, overshadowed the consumer's
validation rights.
The court held that the letter's use
of bright colors and huge lettering,
combined with the very small paragraph
on the reverse side of the collection notice
providing the consumer's rights, misled the

"Collectors should
avoid providing the
FDCPA's validation
notice in a text size
that is smaller than
the text used in the
rest of the letter."
consumer into disregarding the FDCPA's
validation rights.
Based on cases such as these, debt
collectors should avoid the use of all caps
or bright colors when making requests for
payments in a validation notice, as these
tactics can overshadow the consumer's
validation rights. Collectors should also
avoid providing the FDCPA's validation
notice in a text size that is smaller than
the text used in the rest of the letter. If the
consumer's rights are to be printed on the

reverse side of the notice, a disclosure of
the front of the notice should direct the
consumer to the text on the reverse side of
the notice.

STATE REQUIREMENTS
Collectors should also be aware that some
states may impose specific requirements
pertaining to the font size of text
contained in collection notices. For
example, Minnesota requires collection
notices to state that the collection agency
is licensed by the Minnesota Department
of Commerce in a type size or font that is
equal to or larger than the largest font used
in the rest of the notice.
Wisconsin licensees must disclose that
they are licensed by Division of Banking
in the Wisconsin Department of Financial
Institutions, and the disclosure must be
in at least an 8-point font size. Other
states impose a specific font size for all
text in collection notices. For instance, in
Tennessee all collection notices must be in
at least 10-point font size.
Collection notices are an essential
tool, but the color and font size used by
collectors cannot overshadow any required
federal and state disclosures. For more
information on FDCPA and state concerns
with font size, color and two-sided notices,
members can review ACA SearchPoint
documents #3024, Letter Requirements:
Colors, Fonts and Double-Sided Notices;
#2008, State Special Text Requirements for
Collection Notices and #3048, State Special
Text Required Notices.
Andrew Pavlik is ACA International's senior
compliance analyst.

ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG


http://www.ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Collector - February 2016

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