A collection agency has lost a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by an individual who received a collection letter from the defendant that included the language “Member of Experian” in it, which the plaintiff is alleging constitutes a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by implying that a debt collector operates or is employed by a consumer reporting agency.
A copy of the ruling in McCurdy v. Grant & Weber can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff incurred a medical debt, which was referred to the defendant for collection. The defendant sent a collection letter to the plaintiff, which included the following text at the top of the letter:
GRANT & WEBER, INC.
“A Professional Collection Corporation”
Call: T. DIAZ
800-333-1656 Ext. 7719
Member of Experian
The plaintiff argued that the intention of including “Member of Experian” in the letter was to make it look like the agency was affiliated with, or operated by the credit bureau. The defendant argued that an unsophisticated consumer would know that “member” does not give the impression that the company is operated by Experian.
In looking at the definition of “member,” the judge ruled that an unsophisticated consumer could infer that it meant the agency was operated by Experian.
“This is not an irrational interpretation of the letter,” wrote Judge Jorge Alonso of Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. Because the defendant does not explain what it means when it says it is a “Member of Experian,” it is left to the court to attempt to determine the intention, Judge Alonso ruled.
As noted above, an unsophisticated consumer could reasonably believe that, by including the phrase “Member of Experian” in the letter, G&W falsely implied that G&W operates or is employed by a consumer reporting agency, namely Experian.