The team at Maurice Wutscher has spotlighted a case where the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has affirmed a lower court’s summary judgment award in favor of a defendant after it was accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act over a $100 fee that was charged to retrieve personal items from a vehicle that had been repossessed.
A copy of the ruling in Duncan v. Asset Recovery Specialists can be accessed by clicking here.
After defaulting on her auto loan, the plaintiff’s vehicle was repossessed. When she inquired about recovering her property that was inside the vehicle, the plaintiff was notified of a $100 fee for the service. The plaintiff considered the fee to be a demand for loan repayment, and sued, alleging the company violated Section 1692f of the FDCPA, which prohibits the collection of any amount (including any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law.
The $100 fee, however, was an administrative fee that the lender which had assigned the vehicle to be repossessed had agreed to pay. The form provided to the plaintiff contained a handwritten notation that all fees would be billed to the lender, and not to the plaintiff. The plaintiff, not believing this to be the case, refused to sign the form and did not recover her property from the vehicle.
Agreeing with the lower court, the Seventh Circuit affirmed that the plaintiff failed to provide any evidence that the $100 fee was a demand for a loan repayment, and that if the $100 was requested of her, it was a demand for loan repayment and not an administrative fee.
“The same documentary evidence shows that the $100 handling fee was just that—an administrative expense that Asset Recovery sought to recover for its role in processing requests to redeem personal property from repossessed vehicles,” the Seventh Circuit wrote in its affirmation. “All of this stays within the bounds of Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and our caselaw.”