On May 30, a district court judge in the Middle District of Georgia granted a debt collector’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, ruling that the debt collector’s “submit a dispute” statement did not overshadow the letter’s 15 U.S.C. § 1692g notice under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
As required by 15 U.S.C. § 1692g, Credit Bureau of Napa County d/b/a Chase Receivables, the debt collector, sent the plaintiff a notice with the following language:
Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt, or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within 30 days from receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt, or any portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification. If you request of this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice, this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
The collection letter went on to state:
If you would like to submit a dispute you can call us at 877-256-2510 or send it by mail to:
CHASE RECEIVABLES 1247 BROADWAY SONOMA CA 95476-7503 877-256-2510
It is this “submit a dispute” statement that the plaintiff argued overshadowed the FDCPA notice because it had the “propensity to cause unsophisticated consumers to call with a dispute rather than properly mailing a written dispute.”
The Court disagreed, relying on Eleventh Circuit precedent, ruling that the “arrangement” of the collection letter would not confuse the least sophisticated consumer. The Court examined this arrangement in detail and noted that submission of a written dispute was only necessary to invoke specific rights and that the plaintiff was always permitted to dispute the debt orally. The Court commented further, stating that nothing in the collection letter indicated that the debt collector was “attempting to coax Plaintiff to forgo her validation rights by submitting a dispute orally.”
In regard to placing a telephone number before an address, the Court responded: “so what?”
The complaint was dismissed with prejudice.