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Judge Rules Phone Number Does Not Confuse Individual Regarding How to Dispute Debt in Validation Notice

Including other means of contacting a debt collector, such as a phone number or website address, in a validation notice, is not enough to confuse the least sophisticated debtor when it comes to requiring that a dispute must be filed in writing, a federal judge in New Jersey has ruled.

The case, Riccio v. Sentry Credit, was first written about by Reiss F. Wilks and Ethan G. Ostroff at Troutman Sanders. The judge granted a motion to dismiss made by the defendant.

The plaintiff had filed a class-action suit against the collection agency after she received a validation notice. The collection agency had used the language from Section 1692(g) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in the validation notice.

The plaintiff argued that the boxes offering different means of contacting the collection agency were confusing and did not make it clear that a dispute had to be filed in writing, even though it says “If you notify this office in writing within 30 days from receiving this notice…” in the text above the boxes.

The plaintiff was using attempting to use a favorable ruling from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that a collector does confuse an individual when a validation notice is overshadowed by additional notices or messages from a debt collector.

The Display Boxes do not instruct nor suggest an alternative method of disputing the alleged debt, but merely provide the consumer with Sentry’s contact information. Accordingly, Sentry’s debt collection letter does not violate § 1692g—and therefore does not violate § 1692e(10)—of the FDCPA.

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