A District Court judge in Florida has granted summary judgment in favor of a defendant that was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because it used a retailer’s name in a collection letter attempting to collect on an unpaid credit card debt and not the actual issuer of the credit card.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Howe v. Receivables Performance Management can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff obtained a credit card at Kohl’s department store. Even though the card says “Kohl’s” on it, the credit is issued by Capital One. The relationship between the retailer and Capital One is described in the “Important Disclosures” section of the credit application.
The defendant was retained to collect on an unpaid debt of $541.41. The defendant sent a collection letter to the plaintiff, which referred to Kohl’s as both the creditor and the original creditor. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the letter violated Section 1692g(a) by not properly identifying the creditor because the debt was technically owed to Capital One and not Kohl’s.
By demanding that the plaintiff pay Capital One instead of Kohl’s — where all previous payments on the card were made — that may “very well cause confusion and influence a consumer’s decision to pay or challenge the debt,” wrote Judge Robin Rosenberg of the Southern District of Florida. Because the name on the card says Kohl’s, the name on the application says Kohl’s, the billing statements say Kohl’s and include the company’s logo, and individuals are instructed on the statements to make payments to Kohl’s, the defendant did not violate the FDCPA, Judge Rosenberg ruled. While technically a violation of the FDCPA, not naming the actual creditor “forestalled confusion on the part of the least sophisticated consumer,” Judge Rosenberg wrote.