How are debt collectors defined?

So what does it mean “to owe” a debt?  The United States Supreme Court grappled with this seemingly simple phrase in a recent case regarding the definition of “debt collector” in the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (“FDCPA”).  In Henson v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc., the Supreme Court held that a company does not fall under the definition of “debt collector” if it seeks to collect a debt that purchased for its own account. The Court further clarified that by defining debt collectors to those who collect a debt “owed… another”, the plain language of the statute focuses on third party collection and not the collection of a debt owner collecting the debt for itself.   The FDCPA applies to those who regularly seek to collect a debt owed to another, but not to those who seek to collect a debt owed to themselves.  The question is whether the FDCPA definition also includes those who regularly purchase debt originated by another and then seek to collect those debts for themselves.  The Court highlighted that the plain language of the FDCPA does not consider how the debt owner came to own the debt but only whether the owner regularly seeks to collect debts for its own accounts or for the accounts of another.  This may have implications for mortgage servicers who purchase debt for their own accounts.  Stay tuned as there are sure to be more challenges to this seemingly simple definition in the future.