A federal judge in the Eastern District of New York ruled that a debt collection company’s internal reference number, which may have been visible through a glassine envelope, did not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).

In the case, the Plaintiff, Wendy Torres Rodriguez, brought an FDCPA claim against Defendant I.C. Systems, Inc., for sending a collection letter which showed Plaintiff’s name, address and a reference number through the envelopes glassine window. Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant violated Section 1692f(8) of the FDCPA by allowing a reference number to be seen on the outside of the envelope. Specifically, Section 1692f(8) prohibits the use of “any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s address, on any envelop when communicating with a consumer by use of mails.”

In response to Plaintiff’s Complaint, Defendant, I.C. Systems, Inc., filed a summary judgment motion. Therein, the Defendant argued that Plaintiff’s claims fail because (1) Plaintiff failed to provide the alleged envelope referenced in the Complaint, and (2) that the reference number did not reveal identifying information about the Plaintiff.

The Court held as a matter of law that even if reference numbers were displayed through the envelope, the Defendant’s actions would not violate the FDCPA. The Court, citing several cases, noted that a “series of numbers and letters is indecipherable to anyone, sophisticated or not,” and that the content of the letter is only unveiled once the letter is opened.  The Court further likened the numbers to identifiers contained in junk mail. The Court also agreed with the Defendant, that Plaintiff could not prove her case because she could not produce the envelope giving rise to her FDCPA claims.

The Court’s decision further solidifies the existing judicial precedent in the Second Circuit that an alleged FDCPA violation based on the visibility of a reference number on the outside of an envelope, absent more, is not a violation of the Act.

This case is Rodriguez v. I.C. Systems, Inc., Case No. 14-CV-06558.

The Court’s Summary Judgment Memorandum and Order can be found here.