Misleading or Confusing Debt Collection Letter
The American Medical Collection Agency—aka Retrieval Masters—sent a debt collection letter to plaintiff Sam Junik, dated February 3, 2017, attempting to collect a defaulted consumer debt, but according to the complaint, the letter violated the FDCPA in two ways. First, the letter identifies Quest Diagnostics, Inc. as the “service provider” but does not make clear whether Quest is the original or current creditor. Second, Junik alleges that he does not owe the debt because he authorized no services and did not agree to pay for them.
The letter sent to plaintiff Joanne Pacheco by debt collector AFNI, Inc. is confusing in a number of respects, the complaint for this class action claims, to the point where it violates provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The letter is unclear as to who the current creditor is, the complaint says, and refers to the company listed as creditor as “Sprint” even though there are over one hundred companies registered in the state whose names begin with “Sprint” and none whose name is simply “Sprint.” Also, the complaint claims that it does not make clear that if Pacheco disputes the debt, no further actions will be taken until the company is able to verify or validate the debt.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) strictly requires that debt collection letters not make false statements, but the complaint for this lawsuit alleges that the debt collection letter sent to plaintiff Leonard Antonelli by Lori C. Greenberg & Associates misstates the amount of Antonelli’s alleged debt. Accompanying the letter was an unfiled complaint that showed the same amount and that admitted that it included attorneys’ fees and court costs in the amount of $280 and $70 respectively, or $350 total. At the time of the letter, the complaint claims, no lawsuit had yet been filed, no judgment had been entered against Antonelli, and no such amount had been awarded to the company by any court.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) specifies that when a debt collection attempts to collect a debt via a letter, it must include certain information in the letter—and it must not contradict or overshadow that information by other statements that might confuse the “least sophisticated consumer” who might receive such a letter. According to the complaint for this class, action, Immediate Credit Recovery, Inc. sent a letter to plaintiff Kimali Q. Corley that says, “if you do not dispute the validity of this debt, and to prevent further collection activity from being taken, you must make payment in full directly to Immediate Credit Recovery, Inc.” According to the complaint, this statement could confuse an unsophisticated consumer about her rights, because it overshadows the right to dispute the debt.
According to the complaint for this class action, the letters sent by FMA Alliance, Ltd. violate the FDCPA by omitting important information or by “overshadowing” information with statements that sound misleading or contradictory. First, the letter vaguely mentions interest and fees that may accrue, but provides no specifics; and second, according to the complaint, it implies that disputation of the debt or amount owed must be in writing.
Plaintiff Jennifer Mizrahi allegedly owes a debt for care received at Maimonides Medical Center, but when Computer Credit, Inc. attempted to collect that debt, the complaint for this class action claims that its communications with Mizrahi were confusing enough to violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Among the information to be included in a debt collection letter is (1) the fact that the consumer can dispute the debt within the next thirty days, and (2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed. This information must be stated clearly enough that an unsophisticated consumer can understand it, and it must not be overshadowed or contradicted by other statements or information. The complaint claims that the information is not clearly stated and/or is overshadowed by other statements in the letter.
Plaintiff David Dees allegedly owes a debt for an electric bill, and, according to the complaint for this class action, Transworld Systems, Inc. attempted to collect it using a misleading and deceptive letter, in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). First, the complaint alleges that the heading could have two different meanings—that the account may already be credit reported or that it may be reported in the future. Second, the threat to report the debt to credit agencies after the validation period is deceptive, the complaint claims, because Transworld had already reported the debt to credit agencies and no behavior on the part of the recipient could have prevented the action.
Plaintiff Sky Shadow is alleged to owe $1,878.90 in a debt originating with Chase Bank USA, but when Midland Credit Management (MCM) tried to collect that debt, the complaint for this class action alleges, it did so in ways that violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) as well as California’s Rosenthal Act. The letter offered various payment plans and admitted that the debt was time-barred and she could not be sued for it; but what it did not say was that if Shadow made even a single, partial payment on the debt, it might revive the statute of limitations and allow MCM to sue her again for the full amount.
Plaintiff Michelle Vullings was sent a debt collection letter that the complaint for this class action claims violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) in two different ways. The envelope in which the debt collection letter was mailed to Vullings bears the company’s name, which the complaint alleges strongly implies that the company is in the debt collection business and thereby violates her privacy. Also, the letter enclosed in the envelope gives the impression that Vullings can simply call if she wants to dispute the amount owed, whereas the FDCPA requires that the consumer must dispute the debts in writing, and must do so within thirty days.