| WASHINGTON, April 18
WASHINGTON, April 18 The U.S. Supreme Court on
Tuesday appeared skeptical of widening the scope of who can be
subject to a federal law targeting debt collectors' abusive
practices by including those who buy debt, sometimes for pennies
on the dollar.
The justices heard oral arguments in a proposed consumer
class action lawsuit against Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc
over allegations it violated the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act. A lower court had dismissed the case.
That law typically applies to entities whose primary purpose
is debt collection for others, not to lenders who give out and
collect their own loans, such as banks or full-service finance
The justices, both liberal and conservative, seemed to
suggest that the law is not as elastic as the plaintiffs in the
case - car buyers who defaulted on their auto loans - want it to
"Just look at the language," liberal Justice Elena Kagan
told the plaintiff's lawyer, Kevin Russell. "Can you come up
with a sentence that points to your reading?"
"I acknowledge that may not be the first interpretation,"
Four Maryland residents who defaulted on car loans filed the
class action in 2012 in federal court alleging violations of the
debt collection law, such as misrepresenting debt loads and
bypassing debtors' lawyers.
The debts were told to Santander, a Dallas-based consumer
finance company specializing in car loans, owned in part by a
subsidiary of Banco Santander, the euro zone's
second-largest bank by market value. Santander then tried to
collect on the loans.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)