The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) tries to limit abusive debt collection practices in a number of ways. For example, it requires that third-party debt collectors provide clear information on important matters, such as the amount of the debt owed. The complaint for this class action alleges that Genpact Services, LLC did not do that in a recent debt collection letter.
The class for this action is not specifically defined. The complaint speaks only of “all other persons similarly situated” but most FDCPA class actions define their class around persons who have received a substantially similar letter during the previous year.
Plaintiff Eter Bakhturidze allegedly incurred a debt for personal, family, or household purposes, in connection with a TJX Rewards credit card account. The owner of the alleged debt was Synchrony Bank. At some point Synchrony assigned the debt to Genpact Services for collection.
Genpact sent Bakhturidze a debt collection letter dated August 20, 2018. A copy of the letter is attached to the complaint as an exhibit. The letter contained these lines: “The amount now due on your account is stated above. Your total account balance (and with it, the amount now due) may increase because of interest or other charges.”
The complaint claims that these statements are a problem because they do not allow Bakhturidze to know the amount due at any point in time.
First, they suggest that the debt amount may increase. This is an important point, because the consumer needs to be able to make the best decisions about how and when to pay a debt. If the debt amount will increase, then it makes economic sense to pay it off as quickly as possible.
However, the letter does not state that the amount “will” increase, only that it “may” increase. This is unnecessarily confusing: Will the amount increase or not?
The FDCPA specifies that a debt collection letter is deceptive if it can reasonably be read by the least sophisticated consumer to have two or more meanings, one of which is false; or if It is reasonably possible for the least sophisticated consumer to make an inaccurate reading of it. The complaint claims that the letter can be read more than one way and is therefore confusing.
If the debt amount will not increase, the letter should not suggest that it might. But if the amount will increase, the complaint says, the letter needs to state how that will happen. What kind of amounts will be applied—further interest? late fees? other charges? Also, on what date will the amounts be applied? Consumers should know how long they have before an amount increases.