A District Court judge in Illinois has granted in part and denied in part a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by a defendant as a result of a series of collection letters that were sent seeking repayment of an unpaid debt.
A copy of the ruling in Duarte v. Client Services can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff defaulted on a credit card debt which was then placed with the defendant for collection. The defendant sent three letters to the plaintiff seeking repayment. The plaintiff subsequently filed suit, alleging the defendant violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by including a line item “Other Charges: $0.00” in the first collection letter and then by offering the same settlement offer in the second and third letters, even though the second letter indicated the offer had to be accepted by a specific date in order to be accepted.
Judge Jorge Alonso of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, ruled a least sophisticated consumer may be confused by the “Other Charges” line item and ruled the plaintiff adequately alleged a violation of the FDCPA, but also ruled the duplicate settlement offers did not violate the FDCPA because of the safe harbor language included by the defendant in the letters. The safe harbor language said, “we are not obligated to renew this offer.”
Even though the first collection letter stated “no interest will be added to your account balance through the course of [CSI] collection efforts concerning your account” there was no mention of “other charges” which could have led an unsophisticated consumer to believe “she would incur other charges if she did not pay the debt,” Judge Alonso wrote.