In Teitelbaum v. I.C. Sys., a New York district court granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) case. In its holding, the court emphasized that the least sophisticated consumer standard may not be invoked to support the proposition that a collection letter is ambiguous in situations where the interpretation, in context of a reading of the entire letter, is clearly illogical or “tortured and ‘idiosyncratic.'”
In that case, the plaintiff incurred a debt to New York State Electric & Gas Corporation (NYSEG) for electric and gas services, and the defendant was contracted to collect on the debt. The defendant sent the plaintiff a collection letter stating, in relevant part, as follows: “The account information is scheduled to be reported to the national credit reporting agencies in your creditor’s name … [ICS] will not submit the account information to the national credit reporting agencies until the expiration of the time period described in the notice below.” The plaintiff filed a putative class action suit, alleging the letter misleadingly implied that the debt would be reported twice (once by NYSEG and later by the defendant) in violation of 15 U.S.C. §1692e.
The district court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss and found the plaintiff’s citations to case law distinguishable from the case at hand. It held that the language of the letter did not violate the least sophisticated consumer standard, as the plaintiff’s interpretation of the collection letter was “tortured and ‘idiosyncratic.'” Indeed, the court held that “‘only a consumer in search of ambiguity, and not the least sophisticated consumer relevant here,’ would interpret [the defendant’s] collection letter in the idiosyncratic and illogical way Plaintiff posits.” It reasoned that, read in its entirety, the letter would clearly indicate to a least sophisticated consumer (not a ‘dolt’— or for that matter, a ‘Philadelphia lawyer’) that only the defendant would be reporting the relevant account information to the credit reporting agencies.