Consumer debts can become “stale.” That is, after a certain period of time, no one can sue the consumer to collect the debt. This period of time is known as the statute of limitations, and it varies from state to state. The complaint for this class action claims that Synergetic Communication, Inc. did not clearly tell consumers with stale debt that they could no longer be sued by anyone for the debt—unless they made a payment and revived the statute of limitations.
The class for this action is
Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) to stop abusive and deceptive behavior by third-party debt collectors and to ensure that consumers have all the information they need when they must make decisions about paying a debt.
The FDCPA has strict rules about the information that must be included in an initial debt collection contact or within five days of it.
In this case, plaintiff Stephen Jones allegedly incurred a debt with AT&T Mobility, for the use of the company’s telecommunications services, for personal, family, or household purposes.
Sometime afterwards, the debt was purchased by EOS. EOS assigned the debt to Synergetic for collection. Synergetic sent Jones an initial contact letter dated January 5, 2018. A copy of the letter is attached to the complaint as Exhibit A.
Among other things, the letter said, “The limits how long you can be sued on the debt. Because of the age of your debt, the creditor listed on this debt will not sue you for it.” According to the complaint, the debt was stale, and EOS could not sue Jones for it. However, the complaint claims that the letter made it sound as if EOS was simply choosing not to sue for the moment, and that they or another creditor might later do so.
The letter also fails to inform Jones that if he makes a payment, no matter how small, it could revive the statute of limitations, and EOS or another company could then sue him for the debt.
The FDCPA says that even if a debt collector informs consumers of their rights, “the collector nevertheless violates the Act if it conveys that information in a confusing or contradictory fashion so as to cloud the required message with uncertainty.” The complaint claims the letter does exactly that, in not making clear that EOS cannot sue, but could sue if Jones made a payment.