On July 7, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted a debt collector’s motion to dismiss a plaintiff’s claims brought on a class basis under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).
The case arose out of a debt collection letter that listed state-required disclosures, including a section headed “ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENTS.” This section provided that a consumer has the “right to make a written or oral request” to not receive telephone calls regarding the debt at his or her place of employment and that the oral request would be valid for only ten days unless the consumer provides written confirmation of the request within seven days of such request. The letter also included three tear-away payment coupons labeled “1 of 3,” “2 of 3,” and “3 of 3,” each listing as “Current Balance” the full balance of the debt owed by the plaintiff.
The plaintiff filed the class action asserting that the debt collection letter was confusing and misleading in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692e for two reasons: (1) the Massachusetts-required disclosure on the reverse side of the letter contradicted the plaintiff’s rights under the FDCPA; and (2) the inclusion of three payment coupons suggested that the plaintiff owed three times the total amount due. Defendant debt collector moved to dismiss both claims.
On the first claim regarding the state-required disclosure, the court followed the weight of authority supporting the conclusion that “state-specific notifications are not so confusing as to violate the FDCPA” even where they are otherwise inconsistent with consumer rights provided by the FDCPA. The Court also found significant that, above all of the state-specific notices, the letter contained a disclaimer that “[t]his list does not contain a complete list of the rights consumers have under Federal, State, or Local Laws.”
On the second claim, the court emphasized that the total amount due was disclosed in six different locations in the letter. Therefore, the letter could not reasonably be understood as a demand by the defendant to receive the total balance thrice over.