A District Court Judge in New Jersey has dismissed a class-action suit against a collection agency that was accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by sending a letter that would confuse the least sophisticated consumer about how to dispute a debt.
A copy of the ruling in Martinez v. Diversified Consultants, Inc., can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff incurred a debt related to an unpaid telecom bill that was placed with the defendant for collection. The defendant sent the plaintiff a collection letter that included the following passage:
This notice is to inform you that your account with VERIZON has been referred to our office for collections.
Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt, or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within 30 days from receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt, or any portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification. If you request of this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice, this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
Calls to or from this company may be monitored or recorded.
This is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose. This communication is from a debt collector.
The plaintiff alleged that the letter violated Section 1692g of the FDCPA because it confused a least sophisticated consumer about how to dispute a debt and Section 1692e(10) by using a false representation in attempts to collect a debt. By emphasizing the placement of the defendant’s phone number three times and by saying that calls made to the defendant will be monitored and recorded, the letter overshadowed and contradicted the validation notice.
But because the letter did not instruct the plaintiff — or any recipient — to call the defendant in order to dispute a debt nor did it even suggest doing so, the judge ruled the letter did not violate the FDCPA and dismissed the suit without prejudice.