Last week a district court judge in the Northern District of Illinois granted a collection agency’s motion to dismiss, ruling that a collection letter, even coupled with a voicemail, did not present a sense of urgency sufficient to confuse an unsophisticated consumer in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
At issue in the case was a collection letter sent by Harris & Harris, the collection agency. The collection letter contained details on how to make payment and presented a possible payment plan. At the bottom of the collection letter was a detachable payment coupon. The letter also contained the requisite debt verification rights notice pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1692g. About a month after the letter was sent, Harris & Harris left a voicemail wherein it identified itself as a debt collector. The plaintiff, Angela Thompson, alleged that by leaving the voicemail, Harris & Harris demanded immediate payment from her.
Thompson filed suit, alleging that the letter and voicemail demanded immediate payment, which “overshadowed” the disclosure of her rights – specifically, her right to dispute the debt.
The Court disagreed and ruled that, pursuant to Seventh Circuit precedent, merely demanding payment does not “contradict or overshadow” the validation notice. The Court further emphasized that because the collection letter did not contain a due date and included payment plan options, it was far more benign than previous communications that the Seventh Circuit deemed to be compliant with the FDCPA.
Similarly, the Court was unpersuaded that the voicemail overshadowed the validation notice. Indeed, the Court dismissed Thompson’s claim as speculative because she did not actually allege that Harris & Harris demanded immediate payment from her, but rather that the voicemail itself implied the demand for immediate payment.
The Court dismissed the complaint without prejudice and gave Thompson until March 20 to file an amended complaint.