If consumer debtors want to dispute their debts, how may they do that? The complaint for this class action claims that they may call as well as write letters, and that the debt collection letter from Commonwealth Financial Systems, Inc. is misleading under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
The class for this action is not explicitly defined. The complaint says only “all other persons similarly situated[.]” However, FDCPA class actions normally include all others within the previous year who have received a substantially similar debt collection letter from the same debt collector.
The FDCPA attempts to prevent the abuse or misleading of consumer debtors. Among other things, it requires that third-party debt collectors give consumer debtors certain information about their alleged debt and their rights under the law. They must provide this information either in their initial communications with consumer debtors or within five days after it. This includes information on the consumers’ right to dispute the debt, or any part of it.
At issue in this case is a consumer debt, allegedly owed by Oksana Timoshenko. The debt seems to have been incurred for services at Broad Mountain Emergency Physicians, LLC, and the current debt owner is listed as Pendrick Capital Partners II. At some point, Pendrick seems to have assigned Commonwealth to collect the debt.
Commonwealth sent Timoshenko a collection letter dated April 3, 2018. The letter was attached to the original complaint as an exhibit. According to the complaint, this was an initial communication on the debt.
Commonwealth’s letter contained a line instructing Timoshenko to “SEND ALL CORRESPONDENCE TO: Commonwealth Financial Systems 245 Main Street Dickson City PA 18519[.]” According to the complaint, this is a violation of the FDCPA because it implies that she cannot dispute her debt by telephone and must do so in writing. While the letter does include a telephone number, the complaint says, that number is offered for payments.
The standard for clarity under the FDCPA is whether the “least sophisticated consumer” would understand clearly what is meant, whether such a person would be mislead or confused. The complaint claims, that in this case, the least sophisticated consumer would believe that disputes can only be made in writing.
Also, the FDCPA forbids debt collectors from “overshadowing” the information it requires with different or contradictory information. According to the complaint, the statement about correspondence overshadows the one about dispute rights.