Thomas-Lawson v. Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from collecting “any amount (including any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(1). The Bureau filed an amicus brief arguing that this provision bars debt collectors from collecting pay-to-pay or “convenience” fees—fees imposed for making a payment online or by phone—unless the agreement creating the debt expressly authorize the collection of pay-to-pay fees, or a law expressly or affirmatively authorizes them. Debt collectors may not enter into a separate agreement to impose such fees, and such a separate agreement does not satisfy Section 1692f(1)’s “permitted by law” prong, because the statute allows debt collectors to collect amounts pursuant to only one type of agreement—the agreement creating the debt. Finally, the Bureau argued that an “amount” does not need to be “incidental to the principal obligation” to be covered under Section 1692f(1), but that pay-to-pay fees are incidental to the underlying principal obligation in any event.