The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law aimed at protecting consumer debtors from unfair or abusive debt collection practices by third-party debt collectors. This class action takes issue with a debt collection letter sent by Client Services, Inc. The complaint alleges that the validation notice offered by the letter is presented in a confusing and contradictory manner.
The class for this action is all consumers to whom Client Services sent a collection letter substantially and materially similar to the letter sent to the plaintiff in this case, where the letter was sent on or after October 2, 2018.
Plaintiff Seung M. Yoo allegedly incurred a debt for personal, family, or household purposes. At some point, the creditor (not named in the complaint) assigned Client Services to collect the debt. Client Services sent Yoo a debt collection letter that was dated October 8, 2018.
The FDCPA sets forth information that must be given to a consumer by a third-party debt collector, either in the initial communication with the consumer or within five days thereafter. One of the things it requires is a validation notice that gives the consumer the right to dispute the debt or any part of it. The complaint alleges that the validation notice in the Client Services letter was improper.
The complaint points to an earlier case to say, “In this Circuit, a dispute of a debt, to be effective, must be in writing.” The Client Services letter does not say this.
Instead, the complaint quotes the letter as saying, “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.”
The complaint says it also “directs [Yoo’s] attention to the upper right hand corner of the Letter, with Office Hours information listed followed by a phone number in large typeface.” It says that the letter “further diverts [Yoo’s] attention to various center aligned telephone correspondence options contained in pointers with device medium’s picture used as the pointer bullet.”
In other words, the complaint alleges that the letter seems to be emphasizing and offering communications by telephone for disputing the debt, and “fails to state explicitly that a dispute to be effective, must be in writing and sent to a listed address.”
The standard normally used, under the FDCPA, to judge the clarity or potential confusion of a statement in a debt collection letter is the “least sophisticated consumer.” In other words, if the least sophisticated consumer would find a point confusing or misleading, then the point is considered confusing or misleading under the FDCPA. The complaint says, “The least sophisticated consumer upon reading the Letter would likely be unsure as to what she must do to effectively dispute the alleged debt.”