Judge Denies MTD in FDCPA Suit Over Dispute Notice in Letter

A District Court judge in Pennsylvania has denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by including language in a collection letter that allegedly misled a plaintiff into thinking that a dispute could be made orally.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Chromey-Bullock v. Radius Global Solutions, LLC can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter that included the following language:

Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt, or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt, or any portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification. If you request of this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.

The plaintiff filed suit, arguing that using the word “if” in the validation notice could lead a least sophisticated consumer into thinking that a dispute could be made orally, as well as in writing.

The defendant first argued that it used the language proscribed in the FDCPA, which meant, as a matter of law, the language could not be considered misleading. But Judge James Munley of the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in citing a precedent involving the same defendant, ruled that using the statutory language is not enough to comply with the FDCPA.

“The plaintiff’s allegations raise a reasonable expectation that discovery could reveal evidence that the defendant’s collection notice was misleading,” Judge Munley wrote.

The defendant also tried to argue the FDCPA was unconstitutionally vague because Circuit courts are split on the statute’s interpretation. But Judge Munley said it was too soon for that argument.

“At this stage of the proceedings, the issue is not the vagueness of the FDCPA,” he wrote. “Instead, it is the misleading language contained within the collection notice itself. As a result, the defendant’s argument that the FDCPA is unconstitutionally void for vagueness is meritless.”

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