Judge Grants Summary Judgment For Defense After Refusal to Pay Faxed to Wrong Number

A District Court judge in Illinois has granted summary judgment in favor of a defendant who was being sued for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by attempting to collect on a debt after the plaintiff had refused to pay it, even though the refusal was sent via fax to an affiliate of the defendant using a number that the affiliate had stopped using two years prior to the suit being filed.

A copy of the order in Wise v. Credit Control Services can be accessed by clicking here.

The defendant sent the plaintiff a number of collection notices related to an unpaid debt. The plaintiff went to a legal aid service, which sent a fax to the defendant, saying that the plaintiff refused to pay the debt because she was insolvent and saying that the amount of the debt was inaccurate, based on what she saw on her credit report. The letter was faxed to a number that was once used by an affiliate of the defendant, but which the affiliate had stopped publicizing two years prior to the fax being sent. The plaintiff provided a screenshot of a web page used by the defendant two years earlier to solicit resumes and applications for individuals looking for jobs.

What is interesting is that the legal aid service sent another fax — to the defendant’s proper fax number — accidentally for another case, using the exact same language in the body of the message, but for an account that was actually at a different collection agency. The defendant promptly responded to the second fax, seeking more details about the account so it could verify the debt.

When the defendant sent the plaintiff another collection letter after the initial fax was sent, the plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant violated the FDCPA.

The judge granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant because it promptly responded to the second fax, indicating it would have promptly responded to the first fax, had it been sent to the proper phone number.


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