Judge Denies Class Certification in FDCPA Service Fee Case

A District Court judge in Illinois has denied certification of a class action in which a collection agency was accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by charging a fee for individuals to make payments using an online portal when the underlying agreement related to the debt did not authorize such a fee.

A copy of the ruling in case of Alleman v. Collection Professionals, Inc., can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff sought to certify three classes of individuals, related to alleged violations of the FDCPA, the Illinois Collection Agency Act, and the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act. When making a payment online, the plaintiff was assessed a $3 service fee by the defendant, which was not mentioned in the contracts that gave rise to the debt being incurred, according to the plaintiff’s complaint.

However, in order to determine whether the underlying contracts that gave rise to the debts mentioned anything about service fees, they would need to be individually analyzed, which obviates the need for a class-action. Wrote Judge Marvin Aspen of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division:

We cannot simply assume that the underlying contracts at issue in this case are identical insofar as none of them authorize the kind of fees [the] defendant charged to the prospective class members. Whether those contracts authorize the fees or not is dispositive because —as [the plaintiff] recognizes — the key issue in this case is whether [the] defendant violated federal and state law by ‘charg[ing] a fee that is not authorized by the underlying contract between the consumer and the creditor.’

A quick check of online court records reveals that this appears to be the ninth time that the plaintiff has sued a collection agency in the past five years.

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