The Northern District of Illinois recently granted summary judgment in favor of a debt collector in Trischler v. MRS BPO LLC, holding that collection letters effectively stated the amount of the debt.
Consumer plaintiff Jacob Trischler incurred some credit card debt, which was subsequently assigned to MRS for collection by the original creditor. MRS then sent four collection letters to Trischler, each of which included the same static “account balance” of $794.67. Trischler subsequently filed a complaint against MRS alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act based on MRS’s letters failing to effectively state the amount of debt. Trischler also alleged that the letters were false, deceptive, and misleading due to the letters because they did not state interest could be charged. Trischler’s theory was that the original creditor “could have collected interest from him through post-charge off fees once MRS closed out Trischler’s account” based on the terms of the credit card agreement.
In the Court’s opinion, a letter complies with the FDCPA “by stating the balance due, stating that the creditor has assigned your delinquent account to our agency for our collection, and asking the recipient to remit the balance listed – and stopping there, without talk of the ‘current balance.’” Because MRS was only seeking the account balance stated in their letters and not seeking additional late fees, charges or interest, no safe-harbor language was needed. The Court therefore concluded MRS’s letters effectively stated the amount of the debt and complied with the FDCPA.
The Court also sided with MRS regarding the use of false, deceptive, or misleading practices. Trischler argued that MRS’s letters violated the FDCPA by failing to include whether the original creditor could charge Trischler additional interest or other fees on the debt. The Court, agreeing with a recent Seventh Circuit opinion, found that a debt collector “need only request the amount it is owed; it need not provide whatever the credit-card company may be owed more than that.” MRS did not indicate that it had any intention of collecting any interest in the letters, and the original creditor did not authorize MRS to do so. The Court ultimately held that a consumer of reasonable intelligence would have read MRS’s letters with appropriate care and arrive at the conclusion that he owed the balance stated in the letter, and it dismissed the lawsuit.