The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) requires third-party debt collectors to provide clear and accurate information about consumer debts, so that ordinary people can make the best decisions possible about when and how to pay their bills. The complaint for this class action claims that the collection letter sent by Nationwide Credit, Inc. violates this law because it is unclear on both the amount of the debt and how the consumer may dispute the debt.
The class for this action is
Plaintiff Elizabeth Wood allegedly incurred a credit card debt to Chase, for personal, family, or household expenses.
At some point, the debt was assigned to NCI for collection. NCI sent Wood a collection letter dated December 4, 2017.
The letter offered Wood two options for paying the debt. The complaint quotes the letter’s first option as to “pay off your Account Balance by making a single payment for $1,230.98 on or before 01/10/2018.”
According to the complaint, this implies that either NCI or the original creditor might continue to impose interest and/or late fees if the debt is left unpaid after the date mentioned. The complaint says this is misleading, since no such interest and fees are being imposed. In fact, later collection letters in subsequent months that show the same debt total.
There’s another problem, the complaint alleges. The letter does contain the paragraph required by the FDCPA explaining the consumer’s right to dispute the debt or any part of it. However, the complaint says, the information is “overshadowed” by a later statement: “This demand for payment does not eliminate your right to dispute this debt or inquire for more information about this debt. If you send a written notification to or otherwise notify this office as described in the previous paragraphs, NCI will (a) cease collection activities until such time as NCI obtains and sends to you the verification as described in the above paragraphs and (b) extend the due date on these offers as long as the account remains referred to NCI by the creditor.”
This is also misleading, the complaint says, because it suggests that the consumer may “send NCI a written notification or otherwise notify” the company. But a notification of the company by means other than in writing does not preserve the consumer’s full rights to verification. Under the FDCPA, the notice must be in writing. The complaint says that the consumer might falsely believe that telephoning the company would be enough to trigger verification rights.
The complaint cites violations of both the FDCPA and the Wisconsin Consumer Act.