On December 4, Judge William M. Conley, in the Western District of Wisconsin, granted a defendant debt collector’s motion to dismiss without prejudice. The Court determined that while the plaintiff Mikayla Fellenz has standing to sue under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), her claim that the identification of the creditor was confusing and misleading did not constitute a violation of the FDCPA.
At issue, in this case, was a letter that the debt collector, Stark Collection Agency, Inc., sent to Fellenz to collect an outstanding debt owed by TDS. The letter identified the creditor as “TDS-Medford – BO#0801.” TDS is the acronym under which the entity TDS Telecom usually transacts business. Fellenz alleged that this identification was false and misleading and “left her confused,” as to the entity to whom the debt was owed. Thus, according to Fellenz, the letter violated the FDCPA.
In dismissing the claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the Court stressed that the use of the acronym TDS does not violate the FDCPA. In fact, “identifying a credit by a name that it usually uses to transact business has been found to help unsophisticated consumers[.]”
Regarding the reference to “Medford-BO#0801,” while the meaning of this specific reference may have been unclear, it “does not detract from the clear identification of ‘TDS’ as the source of the debt.” Further, because the letter included Fellenz’s account number, the Court determined Fellenz would have been “deliberately obtuse” not to understand that the letter concerned a debt owed to her internet service provider TDS Telecom.
Despite the dismissal, the Court stated that if there was some allegation demonstrating that “BO#0801” was confusing or the TDS account number was wrong, such an allegation would present a question of fact that could not be resolved at the pleadings stage; thereby providing a possible road map for any amended complaint.
The Court dismissed the complaint without prejudice. Fellenz has until December 18 to file an amended complaint.