The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act tries to ensure that consumer debtors have accurate information so that they can make the best decisions possible about when and how to pay their debt. This complaint claims that the letter from Stevens Business Services, Inc. to consumer debtors does not permit that because it is unclear about future increases in the amount of the debt.
The class for this action is all persons similarly situated in the state of New York from whom Stevens Business Services tried to collect a consumer debt using a collection letter with the same flaws as the letter at issue in this complaint, between August 24, 2017 and the present.
Plaintiff Leopold Koenig alleged debt comes from his Keyspan household utility account. At some time after he fell behind on payments, the account was assigned to third-party debt collector Stevens for collection.
Stevens sent Koenig a debt collection letter dated January 4, 2018 which is attached to the complaint as Exhibit 1. The complaint says that this was the initial communication with Koenig. The FDCPA requires that certain information be provided to the consumer in the initial communication or within five days thereafter.
One of the things that a debt collector like Stevens must tell a consumer is the amount of the debt. This is not always as straightforward as it may seem. According to the complaint, Koenig has been charged late fees by Keyspan and has not waived its right to charge more such fees in the future. The complaint therefore claims that late fees and other charges are likely to continue to accrue on the account, but that they were not mentioned by Stevens in the collection letter.
In addition to making this clear, the complaint says, the letter should also contain particulars about these fees and charges, so that Koenig can tell what he would owe at various points in the future. The complaint says the letter should therefore state the amount of the late fees and when they will be assessed, so that Koenig can know what he owes now and in the future.
Similarly, the complaint says that the letter should make clear whether Keyspan will accept the amount listed as payment in full if payment is made by a certain date. Without that, Koenig cannot be clear as to how long the total listed will apply and how large a payment will pay it off.
All of these things, the complaint says, make the letter misleading and deceptive under the FDCPA.