A District Court judge has granted summary judgment to a defendant accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, going as far as to suggest “that this case may be lawyer driven.”
A copy of the ruling in Richardson v. Diversified Consultants, Inc., can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff became delinquent on his cell phone bill, which was placed with the defendant for collection. The plaintiff’s agreement with the cell phone carrier allowed for the assessment of a collection fee of up to 18%. The 18% fee was assessed to the plaintiff’s account when it was placed with the defendant for collection. The defendant sent two letters to the plaintiff, listing the principal balance and the collection fee as separate line items.
The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the letters violated the FDCPA because he had already repaid the debts. While agreeing that the plaintiff had standing to file the suit because he thought the letters misrepresented the amount of the debt, the judge also had some thoughts about who might be behind the suit.
“The Court recognizes that Plaintiff’s deposition testimony indicates that Plaintiff found the Letter to be misleading because he believed he already had paid the debt, not because he was confused about the balance listed,” wrote Judge Robert Dow of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. “Plaintiff’s misunderstanding of this fundamental point in his case suggests that this case may be lawyer driven. As other courts have stressed, the use of consumer protection statutes as tools to benefit lawyers — not consumers — raises concerns.”
The plaintiff tried to argue that because he never signed the original agreement with the carrier — a copy was mailed to him after he signed up for the service — and because the collection fee was assessed before any collection activity had been initiated, that the letter still violated the FDCPA. But Judge Dow disagreed.