A Magistrate Judge in Florida has recommended a motion for summary judgment be granted in favor of the defendant in a lawsuit which accused the company of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by overshadowing the 30-day window to dispute a debt in a collection letter sent to the plaintiff.
A copy of the ruling in Rafferty v. Retrieval-Masters Creditors Bureau can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant related to an unpaid debt owed to a retail company.
The letter looked like this:
Among the overshadowing claims made by the plaintiff in regards to the letter were:
- Language that creates a false sense of urgency
- Language that requests a payment in full
- Language that states that the matter has been referred to a credit bureau
- Superfluous language above the validation notice
- The position of the validation notice on the reverse side of the collection letter and the inadequacies of the referrals to see the reverse side of the letter
The plaintiff also said the letter violated the FDCPA because the validation notice “could confuse consumers as to who it is directed towards and where a consumer should mail any dispute of the debt.”
While not demanding payment be made immediately, the plaintiff still pointed to several phrases and statements in the letter to make the claim that the letter overshadowed the validation period window. For example, saying in the letter, “Now is the time for you to address this seriously past due account.” But the Magistrate Judge said that the language did not overshadow the validation notice because it “does not preclude disputing the debt.” The plaintiff also pointed to the use of “outstanding for some time” and “seriously past due” as overshadowing, but again the Judge ruled that the statements refer to the amount of time that has passed and “does not create any confusion as to whether the consumer has thirty days to dispute the debt.”
The Judge continued to shoot down other arguments made by the plaintiff in respect to the letter, including the placement on the validation notice on the back side of the document.
“I submit that [the] plaintiff has failed to meet her burden of establishing that [the] defendant’s letter would make a least sophisticated consumer uncertain as to her rights,” Judge Philip Lammens wrote in his ruling.